SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Dave Joerger is pretty proud of the way his Kings have been able to generate a few big comeback wins this season.
It's the early double-digit deficits the Sacramento coach could do without.
Willie Cauley-Stein had 22 points and a career-high 17 rebounds, Buddy Hield scored 28 and the Kings overcame an 11-point deficit in the fourth quarter to beat the reeling New Orleans Pelicans 122-117 on Sunday.
"The identity that we're never out of a game, we love," Joerger said. "The identity of starting slow because we're going to catch you later is not what I'm looking for. We've got some young bodies, some young minds, and the best is in front of us. But there's some tired guys in there."
Sacramento fell behind by 19 in the first half Friday before rallying to beat the Memphis Grizzlies.
By doing the same thing against New Orleans, the Kings became the first team since the 2010 Indiana Pacers to trail by 19 and win in consecutive games.
"We've just been fortunate to get stops late," Cauley-Stein said. "We don't want to have to battle down 20. We just have to get stops earlier. In the first half of the last couple of games, they get a lot of layups."
Bogdan Bogdanovic added 24 points, De'Aaron Fox had 19 points and 11 assists, and Iman Shumpert scored 10.
Anthony Davis had 26 points and 17 rebounds for the Pelicans. Jrue Holiday added 27 points, six assists and seven rebounds. New Orleans has lost four straight and 12 of 17.
"It's kind of the same story for us," Holiday said. "Between the coaches and the players, we have to get on the same page when it comes down to the last four minutes. In the second half they started making shots."
Down 105-94 with 7 1/2 minutes left, the Kings scored 14 consecutive points as part of a 19-5 run to take control. Hield fueled the comeback with a pair of 3-pointers and a fast-break layup, and Fox made a free throw to put the Kings up 113-110 with 2:03 remaining.
Sacramento pushed its lead to 121-114 before Davis made a 3. After Fox made one of two free throws, Julius Randle scored and appeared to get fouled but the play was overturned on replay.
The Pelicans, who scored a franchise-record 149 points against the Kings when the teams met in the second game of the season in October, got off to another fast start. New Orleans led 32-13 in the first quarter, then withstood a surge by Sacramento in the second to go up 69-58 at halftime.
"We played well over stretches and then we go away from what we're doing," Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry said. "We stopped moving the basketball and tried to do it ourselves. We're not capable of doing that."
Pelicans: New Orleans scored 66 points in the paint. ... Davis had eight points in the first quarter, going 6 for 6 on free throws. ... Nikola Mirotic missed his fifth consecutive game because of a sore right ankle.
Kings: Marvin Bagley (bruised left knee) sat out his fifth straight game. ... The Kings made five 3s in the fourth quarter.
Fox made a phenomenal defensive play in the second quarter when he chased down Tim Frazier and blocked a fast-break layup attempt from behind. The ball ricocheted off the backboard and nearly went to midcourt, leading to an easy basket for Hield as the Golden1 Center crowd erupted in a thunderous ovation.
NEW YEAR, NEW KINGS
With two games left in 2018, the Kings (18-15) are guaranteed of heading into the new year with a winning record for the first time since 2004-05.
"It's fantastic," Joerger said. "Guys have put in a lot of work. It's also a feather in the hat of our organization and the direction that we're going."
Pelicans: At Dallas on Wednesday night.
Kings: At the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday night.