"We didn't think it was that fair. He doesn't do anything intentional," Holiday said of Cousins, who was assessed a flagrant foul for swinging an elbow near Thunder star Russell Westbrook's head. "We just wanted to win for him."
Cousins had 18 points and nine rebounds before his ejection with five minutes remaining in the third quarter and did not speak with reporters after the game. Cousins raised his elbow near Westbrook's face after grabbing a rebound, and the Thunder guard dropped to the floor holding his head. Westbrook remained in the game and finished with 22 points, 16 rebounds, 12 assists and three steals. However, Westbrook also missed 13 of 19 shots.
Westbrook also did not discuss Cousins' foul, but did lament "mental errors" that plagued Oklahoma City while they were losing a lead that was 19 points in the first quarter. "Guys got to take personal pride and understand how important it is to go out and compete and not take it for granted," Westbrook said. "As players, you go out on the floor, and sometimes you take it for granted and don't realize how important it is to embrace the moment. Each individual guy has to do that every night."
New Orleans trailed 76-72 when Cousins was ejected, but surged ahead soon after with an 11-3 run during which Jameer Nelson, E'Twaun Moore and Darius Miller each hit 3s. Nelson banked in his 3 from near half-court as the shot clock expired.
Davis helped New Orleans end a two-game skid with his typical array of dunks, layups and clutch mid-range shots. He also hit 18 of 22 free throws. "It was tough losing (Cousins), being one of our star players, but anything is liable to happen in a game," Davis said. "So guys stepped up and were ready to play."
Paul George hit six 3s en route to 26 points and Carmelo Anthony scored 19 for Oklahoma City, which lost its second straight in similar fashion, having blown a 23-point lead in San Antonio on Friday night.
"We're too good of a team to allow a team to tie it up after we go up 20," George said. "Games are built on runs. That's going to happen. But we've got to eliminate how much of a run we allow." TIP-INS
Thunder: Oklahoma City led 25-6 on Alex Abrines' 3 in the first quarter, but the Thunder fell into a tie early in the second quarter before going back up by eight at halftime after George's 3 made it 65-57. .... Steven Adams had 15 points and Jerami Grant 10 points.
Pelicans: The 6-foot-4 Moore, normally a reserve shooting guard, started at small forward and scored 12 points. ... Miller had 11 points for New Orleans, hitting three of four 3-point shots. ... Davis had seven turnovers. ... Guard Tony Allen returned from a four-game absence cause by left knee swelling. He had six points and six rebounds in nearly 19 minutes.
COUSINS' EXIT From video replays displayed on the arena scoreboard, it appeared Cousins made contact with Westbrook, but it was difficult to discern whether contact was made with the Thunder star's head or shoulder, or whether the impact was significant.
Officials did not eject Cousins from the game until after viewing replays on a TV at the scorers' table, after which they called a flagrant two. Hard contact is not required for a flagrant two — only an act deemed "unnecessary and excessive."
Allen said Cousins' "emotions got the best of him," and that his history of outbursts seems to be held against him in such situations. Allen also asserted that Westbrook "definitely" flopped. Westbrook "took advantage of Cousins' history. He was going to get the best of that call," said Allen, a 14-year veteran. "You saw him get right back up and miss the free throw."
UP NEXT Thunder: Host Golden State on Wednesday night. Pelicans: Host the San Antonio Spurs on Wednesday night.
More AP NBA: www.apnews.com/tags/NBAbasketball