DeMarcus Cousins carries Pelicans in first game against Kings

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NEW ORLEANS (AP) — DeMarcus Cousins had 37 points and 13 rebounds in his first game against the Kings, and the New Orleans Pelicans routed Sacramento 117-89 on Friday night.

Cousins had downplayed his first meeting with the team that drafted him in 2010 and traded him away this February, but his play looked inspired. He tied a career-high with five 3-pointers and executed a tricky, crowd-pleasing, cross-court bounce pass during a fast break.

Anthony Davis added 19 points, 12 rebounds and five blocks for the Pelicans, who led by as many as 32 en route to their eighth victory in 11 games.

Pelicans first-round draft choice Buddy Hield, who was part of the Cousins trade, had 13 points for Sacramento, while Ben McLemore had 15 points.

Cousins, who also finished with four assists and two blocked shots, received a standing ovation from many fans when he checked out of the game for the final time with a little more than three minutes left.

E'Twaun Moore had 13 points for the Pelicans, who shot 48.4 percent (46 of 94), including 10 of 33 from 3-point range. Jordan Crawford and Dante Cunningham each scored 12 points.

Skal Labissiere scored 13 points for the Kings, who shot 39.3 percent (35 of 89). Tyreke Evans, Willie Cauley-Stein and Gerogios Papagiannis each scored 11 points.

But the Kings had no answer for the front-court tandem of Cousins and Davis, who helped New Orleans finish with a 60-38 advantage in points in the paint. New Orleans also scored 27 fast-break points and racked up 36 points off of 22 Kings turnovers.

TIP-INS

Kings: Sacramento fell to 5-14 since trading away Cousins in a deal that also sent Evans, Langston Galloway and first- and second-round draft choices to the Kings. … Galloway finished with three points. … When Hield was shooting in the first half, the backdrop to the hoop was tourism advertising for his native Bahamas spread across four sections of seating. The season-long ad campaign had been launched after the Pelicans used their sixth overall draft choice last summer to select Hield.

Pelicans: New Orleans has won six straight at home, where it is now 21-18. … Davis became the first player in Pelicans history to score 2,000 points in a season. He needed 16 to hit that milestone coming into the game. … Cousins has hit five 3s three times in his past four games.

 

Warriors hope to get Shaun Livingston, Matt Barnes back for second round

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OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — The Golden State Warriors hope to get injured reserves Shaun Livingston and Matt Barnes back from injuries for the second round of the playoffs after getting more than a week off between series.

The Warriors said Saturday that Barnes has been upgraded to probable for Tuesday night’s Game 1 and Livingston remains questionable but is hopeful he will be ready to return. Star forward Kevin Durant is expected to be a full go after missing two games and being limited to 20 minutes in Game 4 last round because of a strained left calf.

Barnes has been sidelined since April 8, while Livingston sprained a finger on his right hand in Game 1 of the first-round against Portland.

Golden State begins the second round at home on Tuesday night against the winner of Sunday’s Game 7 between the Los Angeles Clippers and Utah Jazz. The Warriors have been off since sweeping the Trail Blazers last Monday, giving them more than a week between games.

“I’m trying to make sure I rest it as much as I possibly can, because when I do come back I plan on staying all the way back,” Livingston said Saturday. “Hopefully it will be ready for Tuesday.”

After taking Tuesday and Thursday off following their first-round sweep, the Warriors practiced for a second straight day Saturday. They plan to practice again on Sunday and then again Monday once they know their second-round opponent.

There is no update on the status of coach Steve Kerr, who missed the final two games of the first round because of complications from two back surgeries. Kerr talks daily with interim coach Mike Brown and took part in coaching meetings Friday but was not at practice on Saturday.

PBT Extra: Rockets vs. Spurs far more than Kawhi Leonard vs. James Harden

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Kawhi Leonard vs. James Harden. Two MVP candidates matching up in the second round of the NBA playoffs.

However, the San Antonio Spurs vs. Houston Rockets is much more than that.

It’s a battle of pace. It’s a chess match between two of the best coaches in the game. It’s about which team’s role players are going to step up.

I talk about all of that in this latest PBT Extra. Plus, of course, when Leonard will guard Harden.

How to start your Saturday night: Watching 15 minutes of best plays from NBA season

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There are no NBA playoff games Saturday night, the first night since the start of the postseason there hasn’t been one game. Don’t worry, there are two games on Sunday, including Game 7 between the Jazz and Clippers.

But if you need a Saturday night fix, this will have to do: 15 minutes of the best plays from last season, as compiled by NBA.com.

Go ahead, watch it. You’ve got nothing better to do.

 

Paul Millsap says the expected, he will “most likely” opt out of contract

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This is ranked right next to “overeating can lead to weight gain” on the list of surprising things, but we will dutifully report it anyway:

Paul Millsap is going to opt out and officially become a free agent this summer.

Atlanta’s owner as well as Mike Budenholzer, the coach and head of basketball operations, have both said they plan to do whatever it takes to re-sign Millsap with the Hawks. Millsap didn’t sound like someone eager to leave after the Hawks were eliminated from the playoffs Friday.

“It’s been great. I’m looking to expand this and see where the franchise can go. These last four years has been great. I couldn’t ask for anything more.”

Even with both sides singing Kumbaya, keeping Millsap in Atlanta likely means a five-year contract at or near the max, which for a 32-year-old player means the Hawks would regret the last year or two of that deal.

Not that the Hawks have much of a choice here, they have to come in big and keep him. For one, they can’t afford to lose Al Horford and then Millsap for nothing in back-to-back years. If they were going down the rebuilding road, they needed to trade Millsap at the deadline (or last summer) to make sure they got something in return. Atlanta explored trade options at the deadline, but then pulled back (rumored to be because of an edict from ownership, which didn’t want to see the team blown up after the Kyle Korver trade).

By not making that trade the Hawks signaled their intention to remain a good team — a 43-win team this season that got them the five seed — with Dennis Schroder and Dwight Howard, one that draws well at an arena that historically has not been that full, and see if they can add on. They strike me as a team that will win between 42-50 games a year and be middle of the pack in the East for the next few years, unless they can find a way to add an elite player (which is incredibly difficult).

But if the Hawks can’t re-sign Millsap, then the plan gets blown up. So expect them to come in with a big offer come July 1.