Former University of Kentucky basketball stars Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins were New Orleans Pelicans teammates for the first time Thursday night.
The fellow one-and-doners and NBA All-Stars, brought together by the trade sending the mercurial Cousins to New Orleans from the Sacramento Kings, combined for 56 points and 23 rebounds in the host Pelicans’ 129-99 loss to the Houston Rockets.
Cousins had 27 points on 11-for-19 shooting with 14 rebounds, and Davis had 29 points on 8-for-21 shooting and nine rebounds. But New Orleans turned the ball over 20 times and couldn’t keep pace with the firepower of the Rockets, who hit 20 three-pointers.
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Houston led by as many as 35 points when Eric Gordon’s free throws made it 100-65 late in the third quarter.
After New Orleans acquired Cousins, nicknamed “Boogie,” in a deal involving five players and two draft choices, Pelicans General Manager Dell Demps hoped Cousins and Davis would thrive playing off one another while point guard Jrue Holiday initiated offensive sets. But Holiday had arguably his worst game this season, turning the ball over seven times and finishing with only six points and four assists.
The crowd was charged up for both Cousins’ debut and Davis’ resumption of a sensational season following his record 52-point performance on Sunday.
Both players received rousing receptions during introductions and the crowd roared when Cousins hit a jumper for games’ first points.
Cousins and Davis each scored eight in the first quarter, but it was also apparent that the integration of new personnel had New Orleans a bit out of sync. The Pelicans turned the ball over 12 times in the first half, leading to 17 Rockets points.
The Rockets also hit nine threes in the opening half, including three each by Gordon and reserve Lou Williams, and led 66-50 at halftime.
By the end of the third quarter, the crowd that had been so rowdy at tip-off was starting to file out with their team down 100-67.
Cousins and Davis were never teammates at Kentucky, but they did play together on the United States’ 2014 FIBA World Cup team that won a gold medal and in two NBA All-Star games.
Cousins and Davis attended UK two years apart. Cousins was a force inside on Coach John Calipari’s first Kentucky team in 2009-10. Davis led the 2012 UK team to the national championship, the school’s eighth and Calipari’s first.