The final 3-pointer made by Zach Randolph might have been the most unlikely to go in.
The Kings’ big man launched the off-balance shot from the corner in front of the New Orleans Pelicans bench.
Some nights, you’re just feeling good and Friday night was such a night for Randolph. That 3-pointer was his second in overtime and career-high fifth of the game as the Kings rallied from down eight in the final three minutes of regulation for a 116-109 win over the Pelicans at Smoothie King Center.
Randolph had a season-high 35 points and helped the Kings fend off the Pelicans’ All-Star duo of DeMarcus Cousins and Anthony Davis.
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“I knew that one was going in,” said Kings coach Dave Joerger. “He plays for big moments, and big shots. We may not have a great record, but you get in a game like this and it is competition.
“DeMarcus, Anthony and Zach have been going against each other for six to seven years and Zach is the elder statesman of that group, and maybe he wanted to prove he had a little left. Man that was a good shot. That was a tough shot.”
Randolph is 36, not an age when players tend to post career highs. But lately, Randolph hasn’t been playing like he’s near the end of his career. He’s scored more than 20 points in three of his last four games.
He’s anchoring the Kings’ offense and becoming the player they turn to when they need a key basket.
“What they call me? The Handyman,” Randolph said. “I’ll do whatever they want me to do. I’m a team guy, I’ll come off the bench, it don’t matter. It’s about the team.”
That meant digging into his tool box for his 3-point shot against the Pelicans (13-13) and facing Cousins, who had a game-high 38 points, in the paint.
Randolph shot a career-high 94 3-pointers last season with Memphis and is well on pace to surpass that, having attempted 52 this season. He’s made 19 3-pointers this season and his career best is 25 with the Los Angeles Clippers in 2008-09.
“I’ve been shooting that thing,” Randolph said. “I’ve been working on it, trying to get some wins and try to do the best you can develop these young guys.”
Randolph said he wasn’t even aware how many 3s he’d attempted, but knew his shot felt nice.
“I’d seen a couple go in and I said, ‘I’m a stretch five,’ ” Randolph joked. “I’m stretching.”
Randolph has played at least 32 minutes in the last four games after not doing so all season.
“I just try to be aggressive,” Randolph said. “I’m feeling good out there, the guys are coming to me, coach letting me play a little bit and I’m trying to get a rhythm, try to attack and give the team some inside scoring.”
His outside scoring surprised his teammates. Frank Mason said some of Randolph’s shots were “amazing” because he was falling away or under duress from a defender.
Then there’s also the fact that Randolph isn’t exactly jumping high to get off his shots, instead relying on timing and using his size and strength to create space when needed.
“He don’t really get off the ground,” Mason said. “I don’t even know if he got off the ground on the shot (in the corner), but he faded away and created enough space and he made it.”
Randolph didn’t really want to talk about himself after the game. He was proud of how point guard De’Aaron Fox attacked in the second half and how Buddy Hield was clutch late with a tying 3-pointer with 36.3 seconds to play.
Hield was the key player the Kings acquired in February’s trade of Cousins.
After fading late in Wednesday’s loss at Cleveland, the Kings (8-17) were resilient at New Orleans.
“This is what this league is about, having confidence and these games,” Randolph said. “How Fox and Buddy and Bogi (Bogdan Bogdanovic), these guys are playing with confidence. Frank Mason, it’s what it’s all about.”
As Randolph has played better, the younger players around him are feeling more assured in what they do on the floor.
“Everybody needs that inside presence,” Fox said. “We get it to him. We rely on that a lot. He’s been big every game. Basically, he hasn’t disappointed us a single game.”
Randolph’s play is a reminder that even though the Kings are focused on developing for the future, they still need players who can produce in the present to win games.
The confidence they gain from being around Randolph now could pay off in the future.
“When we have a young team out there, except for Z-Bo, we’re inexperienced,” Hield said. “But when we get confidence, it’s hard to take it away from us.”
Lately, Randolph won’t let anyone take it away.