NEW ORLEANS — Rudy Gay went from ejection to redemption in just a couple of days.
One game after a miserable showing in Oklahoma City, Gay tied a career high with 41 points and the Sacramento Kings cruised to a 114-97 victory against the New Orleans Pelicans on Tuesday.
“Honestly, I didn’t even know how much I scored,” Gay said. “It was more about getting the win.”
In a loss two nights earlier to the Thunder, Gay scored only six points before being sent off the court with two technical fouls in the fourth quarter. But Gay hit 16-of-25 shots in the Big Easy, including 5-of-8 from 3-point range, to match a point total he last put up on Dec. 13, 2009, in Miami.
It was going so well for Gay that he casually walked the ball up the court with an eye on the clock late in the third quarter, and then drilled a pull-up jumper from 27 feet.
“He put on a show (Tuesday), coming off a game in Oklahoma City where he didn’t play very well and got thrown out,” said Kings coach Michael Malone. “He wanted to bounce back and show everybody what he is capable of.”
DeMarcus Cousins had 18 points, 11 rebounds and four blocks for the Kings, who have won five of eight. Isaiah Thomas added 20 points and 11 assists.
“When in doubt, go to Rudy and you’ll get an assist,” Thomas said. “He really carried us (Tuesday).”
Tyreke Evans scored 17 for New Orleans, which trimmed a 23-point deficit to six shortly before halftime, only to fall behind by 23 again in the third quarter and remain behind by double digits the rest of the way.
Anthony Davis scored 16 points and blocked four shots, and New Orleans rookie center Jeff Withey had a career-high 14 points, but that was not nearly enough to prevent the Pelicans from losing for the ninth time in 10 games. The latest loss came one night after the Pelicans snapped an eight-game skid in Memphis.
“We just didn’t have a lot of juice collectively from our starters (Tuesday) and certainly didn’t play with any kind of intensity that was comparable to what we did (Monday),” said Pelicans coach Monty Williams. “That is just part of being a pro and understanding that when you have an emotional win like we did last night, there’s a quick turnaround.”
Quincy Acy grabbed 10 rebounds for the Kings, who outrebounded New Orleans, 46-35.
The Kings were the sharper team from the outset, shooting 70 percent (14-of-20) in the first period, during which they scored 38 points and built an 18-point lead.
“Obviously I could point to a few things, but that would be emotional and I don’t want to do that,” Williams said. “There’s some things I’ve discussed with our team that they need to be better at, and they understand. … We’re not the type of team that can just put our jersey on and step onto the floor. We’ve got to go out and play with a high level of energy.”
New Orleans had 10 players in uniform, out of 15 on the roster. Ryan Anderson (herniated disk), Jrue Holiday (stress fracture, right shin) and Jason Smith (right knee) were injured. Reserve shooting guard Anthony Morrow was sick and newly acquired guard Tyshawn Taylor was not with the team.
All 10 active players had checked in before the first quarter ended, in part because four players — Davis, Al-Farouq Aminu, Greg Stiemsma and Alexis Ajinca — each had two fouls in the period.
The Kings’ lead grew to 23 on Gay’s 3-pointer midway through the second quarter, and it might have been worse if not for Withey’s 12 points in the period.
New Orleans enjoyed momentum for only the last half of the second period, scoring on 10 of its last 11 possessions. Withey’s dunk sparked a 12-3 spurt, capped by Roberts’ fast-break layup.
Next came an 11-2 run during which Evans scored eight, trimming Sacramento’s lead to six before Derrick Williams’ free throws gave the Kings a 64-56 halftime lead.
The Pelicans’ second-quarter surge put them in striking distance of a memorable comeback, but Sacramento opened the third with a 17-4 run. The surge began with two baskets by Cousins and included two 3s by Gay, the second making it 83-60.
“When we play that type of basketball, we’re a tough team to beat,” Cousins said. “We’ve got a long way to go to grow as a team, but we’re definitely on the right path.”
Notes: The Kings conclude a six-game road trip Wednesday night at Houston. They are 2-3 on the trip so far. … Four players in Tuesday’s game spent at least one season of college under current Kentucky coach John Calipari: Cousins, Davis, Evans and Darius Miller. All are former Kentucky players except Evans, who played at Memphis, Calipari’s previous stop.