His coach was in the locker room.
Two starters were unavailable.
So when the third quarter began, DeMarcus Cousins knew what he had to do as he sparked the Kings, who defeated the New Orleans Pelicans 99-89 Tuesday night at Smoothie King Center.
Coach Michael Malone had been ejected in the second quarter. Darren Collison and Rudy Gay were out with injuries.
But the Kings still had Cousins, who scored six quick points to start the third quarter and break a 49-49 halftime tie.
“We had a little adversity at halftime with the whole coach situation, got a couple of calls that didn’t go our way,” Cousins said. “It would have easily went their way with the momentum. So I just tried to come out and be aggressive, hit them in the mouth early and get our team rolling.”
Cousins scored 10 of his 22 points in the third, when the Kings regained control following Malone’s ejection in a shaky second quarter that saw the Kings squander a 15-point lead from the first quarter.
Watching from the locker room, Malone knew the Kings would be fine if Cousins brought that kind of intensity.
Cousins also had 12 rebounds, five assists, three steals and a blocked shot.
“When I saw him score the first three baskets, I knew he was going to do whatever he needed to do to put this team on his back to get the win,” Malone said. “The great thing about it for us was it wasn’t just DeMarcus; he didn’t have to put the whole team on his back.”
Omri Casspi started for Gay and scored a season-high 22 points. Ramon Sessions started for Collison and had 15 points and six assists.
Ray McCallum scored 12 points off the bench.
The Kings (9-5) held the Pelicans (7-6) to 41.8 percent shooting and neutralized All-Star forward Anthony Davis, limiting him to 14 points and nine rebounds.
Casspi brought the same energy he has as a reserve to the starting role. He made nine of his 14 shots, grabbed four rebounds and had a steal.
“I’m not trying to be somebody I’m not,” Casspi said. “I’m going to play my game. Play hard, run the floor, offensive rebound, do what I do.”
Without Collison (left quad contusion and muscle strain) and Gay (right Achilles’ tendinitis), the Kings needed a complete effort.
That included one from the coaching staff when lead assistant Tyrone Corbin had to take over before halftime.
Malone was ejected after being called for two technical fouls at once by official Eric Lewis with 4:42 left in the second quarter.
The scene for the ejection was bizarre in that no one on the Kings’ bench seemed to realize Malone had been called for two technical fouls.
One was expected after Malone met Lewis at halfcourt after Sessions landed hard on the floor without a foul being called against New Orleans.
But Lewis signaled to the scorer’s table he was calling two technical fouls and motioned that Malone had been ejected with the Kings not realizing their coach had been tossed.
“Tyrone and the coaching staff did a great job in the second half,” Malone said. “It was not my intent to get thrown out of the game, obviously. I apologized to our players for that.”
Malone did not want to discuss the details of his first ejection as Kings coach but said Lewis is a “class act.”
“I’ve got no problems with Eric,” Malone said. “He’s a good ref, a good guy. He made the call. I obviously didn’t agree with it, but I want to focus on our players and our coaches.”
Cousins tried to find out why Malone was ejected but managed to keep his cool long enough to avoid being called for a technical foul himself.
“I didn’t know what the situation was, but I saw coach get in his way or whatever,” Cousins said. “I got there a little too late, I guess, but I did see the situation and didn’t’ really understand the results. I don’t really want to speak on it too much, but it happened and we found a way to play through.”
Cousins made sure of that.