SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- New Orleans Pelicans forward DeMarcus Cousins probably couldn't have written a better script for his return to Sacramento on Thursday night.
Cousins had a memorable all-around game, going off for 41 points, 23 rebounds and 6 assists and nailing three 3-pointers during a 114-106 comeback triumph in his first game in Sacramento since being traded in February. The Kings traded Cousins to the Pelicans during the 2017 NBA All-Star Game after he played six-and-a-half seasons for the franchise.
Kings fans, for the most part, gave Cousins a standing ovation when he was announced in the Pelicans' starting lineup before the game. The Kings thanked Cousins for his play on the court and contributions to the community during the first quarter. A tribute video, which was nearly a minute long, showed Cousins starring for the Kings, as an NBA All-Star, playing for USA Basketball in the 2016 Olympics and giving back to the community.
As Kings fans stood and cheered, one fan held a sign that referenced Cousins by his nickname: "Boogie, Thank You, Love You, Miss You." Cousins waved to the crowd and touched his heart while on the floor at the end of the salute. Cousins also had about 125 family members and friends at the game, filling two suites.
"It was beautiful, man," Cousins said of the ovation he received. "A lot of people that know me knew I was nervous as hell. I'm thankful to have the years that I had in this city. The city and the fans were great to me, and I loved my time here. At the end of the day, it was nothing but love."
The Pelicans also played without injured NBA All-Star forward Anthony Davis, who was out because of left knee quad tendinitis.
"Obviously, DeMarcus carried us, in almost every phase of the game," Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry said.
Cousins, the fifth pick in the 2010 NBA draft, is the Kings' second all-time leading scorer behind Mitch Richmond and the top rebounder in the franchise's Sacramento era. Cousins also made three NBA All-Star appearances for the Kings and won an Olympic gold medal with USA Basketball in 2016. The 2017 Offseason NBA Cares Community Assist Award winner's private and public charitable work in Sacramento was strongly appreciated and respected, too.
Gentry also said Cousins did a good job of keeping focused on what was happening on the court.
"These people love him here. You seen the standing ovation, and the response that he got when they put him on the Jumbotron. I think he really appreciates it," Gentry said. "He had a relationship here that will last a lifetime."
Cousins had 20 points, 9 rebounds, 5 assists and two made 3-pointers in the first half. The Kings, however, held a lead by as much as 19 points before holding a 70-56 halftime lead. Kings guard Garrett Temple, who hugged Cousins during pregame shootaround, scored a team-high 10 points in the first half.
The Pelicans opened the third quarter with a 16-7 run to take an 82-80 lead after a Tony Allen layup with two minutes left in the period. Cousins had seven points on 3-of-3 shooting from the field and six rebounds in the third quarter. The Pelicans held an 88-87 lead through three quarters.
Cousins nailed a 3-pointer with 2:20 left in the fourth quarter to give the Pelicans a 108-106 lead. A Cousins dunk after a pass from guard Jameer Nelson gave New Orleans a comfortable 112-106 lead with 1:15 left.