NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Brandon Ingram scored 34 points, Zion Williamson added 30 and the New Orleans Pelicans held off a furious Sacramento Kings comeback bid for a 117-110 victory on Monday night.
Steven Adams had 16 rebounds and Eric Bledsoe scored 13 points for the Pelicans, who had their 26-point, second-quarter lead trimmed to four in the final minute.
De’Aaron Fox, who scored 43 points for the Kings, attempted a 3 that could have made it a one-point game with 14 seconds left. But the shot missed and Wes Iwundu rebounded for New Orleans to help secure the victory, which also dropped the Kings to their seventh straight loss.
“Everybody gets all excited about the comebacks, and I get that,” Pelicans coach Stan Van Gundy said of the Kings’ second-half rally. “They did a great job. But you know what? We get a win and they get a loss.”
What had looked like a laugher became a tense affair after Fox drained a 19-footer to make it 91-84 with 8:33 still remaining.
Blown double-digit leads were piling up on New Orleans earlier this season, but the Pelicans have now won three straight, with Williamson and Ingram helping to close them out.
“I definitely see the maturity, but I also see a team coming together,” Williamson said. “I love playing with Brandon. He’s great player. I think we complement each other very well. And when it’s time to win, we both know what we got to do.”
Isaiah Thomas’ floater — his first home basket with the Pelicans — sparked a 9-3 run that included Williamson’s baseline turnaround at the end of the shot clock and a 3 by Ingram to make it 100-87.
By the time Sacramento pulled as close as five on Fox’s floater, just 2:28 remained. A pivotal sequence occurred soon after, when Adams tapped an offensive rebound of Bledsoe’s missed 3 out to Ingram, who converted a contested driving layup to make it 110-101 with 1:02 left.
“I’m sticking to the positive,” Van Gundy said. “I’m really happy that we probably don’t have to see De’Aaron Fox again this year. … He’d be the MVP if he played us every game.”
Harrison Barnes had 16 points and 11 rebounds for the Kings, who were done in partly by 15 missed free throws.
“If we make free throws, then it would be an entirely different game,” said Fox, who missed seven from the foul line.
Before the game, Kings coach Luke Walton sought to convey a heightened sense of urgency to “stop the bleeding.”
“We’ve got to buckle down and put an end to this,” Walton said of the losing streak.
His players didn’t open the game as if they’d gotten the message.
New Orleans led 66-40 after Bledsoe’s 3 in the final minute of the second quarter before taking a 68-45 lead into halftime.
“We really struggled to score the ball and to make open shots” in the first half,” Walton said, highlighting his team’s misses on its first 14 3-point shots before Fox hit one just before halftime.
“We kind of found that fight in the second half and that was great to see,” Walton added. “That is the fun and energetic team that we need. We have to fight through this, and we will.”
Sacramento trimmed 11 points off New Orleans’ lead in the third quarter, helped by the Pelicans’ 10 turnovers in the period. The Kings might have made it even closer if not for seven missed free throws in the period.
Kings: Finished 22 of 37 on free throws (59.5%) and also missed 25 of their 35 3-point shots (28.6%). … Tyrese Haliburton and Delon Wright each scored 12 points.
Pelicans: Lonzo Ball missed his third straight game because of soreness in his left hip flexor. “He said he’s making progress,” Pelicans coach Stan Van Gundy said before the game. “He’s not ready to play tonight, but he is feeling better.” … Iwundu and rookie Kira Lewis Jr. each scored 11 points. … New Orleans outrebounded Sacramento 51-34 and outshot the Kings, 54.5% (42 of 77) to 43.3% (39-90). … Committed 23 turnovers, which the Kings converted into 27 points.
On March 30th, after the Kings had won five straight, they led New Orleans in the standings and sat just one game behind Golden State for 10th place in the West, very much in contention for a postseason play-in spot that goes to the seventh through 10th seeds.
Now Sacramento sits in 12th, three full games behind 11th-place New Orleans with 18 games remaining in the regular season.
Kings: Host Washington on Wednesday night.
Pelicans: Host the New York Knicks on Wednesday night.
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