Desperate Pelicans host surging Kings

( - There's little margin for error if the New Orleans Pelicans plan on playing past the regular season.

The Pelicans are 3 1/2 games off the final postseason spot in the Western Conference and have lost four in a row, including Wednesday's 95-93 loss to the Houston Rockets in the opener of a three-game homestand.

Rockets center Dwight Howard returned to action, but was ineffective with four points and seven rebounds in just under 17 minutes. James Harden, though, was his usual scoring self with 25 points, 10 assists and six rebounds.

Tyreke Evans led New Orleans with 28 points on 10-of-16 shooting and young star Anthony Davis supplied 24 points, 14 boards and three blocks for the Pelicans, who raced out to a 34-19 lead after the first quarter and was outscored by a 59-36 margin the next two stanzas.

"It's a tough loss. That's what it is, a tough loss," said New Orleans coach Monty Williams.

The Pelicans are 23-13 in the Big Easy and will close the residency Sunday versus the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Davis (shoulder) is probable Friday and averaging 24.6 points, 10.5 rebounds and 2.9 blocks.

Sacramento is one win shy of matching a season-high win streak of five games set at the beginning of the season (Oct. 31 to Nov. 7).

The Kings opened a four-game road trip with a 108-99 victory over the Phoenix Suns Wednesday night at US Airways Center. DeMarcus Cousins muscled his way to 24 points and 11 rebounds, while Rudy Gay and Ray McCallum scored 14 points apiece for Sacramento, which played well against a team desperate to make a postseason push.

Phoenix cut its deficit to 92-87 with 4:51 to go in the game, but a Ben McLemore 3-pointer pushed Sacramento's lead to eight points. The Kings hit eight foul shots down the stretch.

"We can build confidence, which definitely is something this team needs," Cousins said.

Cousins has 43 double-doubles on the season and eight in his last 10 games played for Sacramento, which has scored 100 or more points in six straight and 11 of the last 12 games.

The winning streak for the Kings comes on the heels of four consecutive losses, and they'll also make stops in Memphis and Houston. The Kings are 10-24 as the visitor this season.

Sacramento and New Orleans have split two games this season and will meet again April 3 in California's capital. The Kings have won four of the last five games in this series and are unbeaten in three straight trips to the Crescent City.