After Rudy Gay’s poor performance against the Oklahoma City Thunder, he needed to vent.
Sunday, he did so with his mouth and consequently got ejected. Tuesday against the New Orleans Pelicans, he blew off some steam with his game and led the Kings to a 114-97 win over the Pelicans.
Gay put together one of his dominant outings of the season, displaying a versatile offensive attack. The basket looked wider than usual when he launched shots from beyond the arc and he attacked the rim with strength and purpose.
All told, he finished with 41 points, but also five assists and eight rebounds. Particularly in the first half, before he really started zoning in, Gay looked for cutting teammates and found them with passes that zipped through the lane and past defenders.
Gay took his lumps in Toronto, and Memphis before that, for being a volume scorer. However, with Sacramento so far, he’s taken fewer field goals (15.1 per game down from 18.6 with the Raptors this season) with improved results (52.4 percent shooting up from 38.8 percent and 20.9 points per game as opposed to 19.4) – something Michael Malone has gladly pointed out numerous times, including Tuesday night.
“Every time he does that, I get a smile because there were so many of these so-called analytic experts that called him one of the most inefficient players in the NBA. Every game he’s been with us, he’s been one of the most efficient players I’ve been around,” Malone said.
Tuesday marked the second consecutive game a Kings player has scored 38 or more points, but the difference against the Pelicans was how the rest of the team performed. Unlike Sunday’s game, when Isaiah Thomas was virtually on his own offensively, Tuesday Sacramento looked like a cohesive team and got production from a number of its players.
The Kings spread the wealth from the get-go; in the first quarter alone they tallied 10 assists. Adding to Gay’s performance, Thomas and DeMarcus Cousins combined for 38 points and Quincy Acy provided energy off the bench, pulling down 10 rebounds in 23 minutes.
Aside from a Pelicans run in the third quarter, in which they nearly closed the gap, the Kings were in control for most of the game.
“The second quarter we stopped defending, got selfish, guys tried to make plays by themselves and we let them get back in the game,” Malone said. “I’m really proud of how we responded in the third quarter – the first 14 possessions (New Orleans) only scored twice. We got back to our identity and who we need to be to be a team who is capable of winning on a consistent basis.”
Sacramento won’t have long to meditate on what made it successful Tuesday, as it takes on the Houston Rockets tonight to conclude its six-game road swing.