Shooting guard Eric Gordon’s consistency has been one of the reasons the New Orleans Pelicans have been winning of late.
Since Feb. 21, when Anthony Davis and Ryan Anderson both were injured, Gordon has scored in double figures in 10 of 12 games. He has continued a streak of 3-point shooting that has him second in the NBA at 45.7 percent.
However, more important, Gordon has developed a chemistry with point guard Tyreke Evans that has made for smooth backcourt symmetry and taken the pressure off the team as starting point guard Jrue Holiday remains out injured.
“With me and Tyreke being ballhandlers, it kinds of throws teams off,” Gordon said after Monday’s practice. “Once you do that, you have some time to get some good open shots.”
Since Jan. 21, nine days after Holiday was injured, Gordon has had at least six assists nine times. The Pelicans are 7-2 in those games.
Although he scored 16 points for the fourth consecutive game Sunday in the double-overtime home loss to the Denver Nuggets, he had just one assist. And the points came on 5-of-18 shooting.
He looked out of rhythm. The key to playing well, he said, “is just staying consistent, still making plays for my teammates and mixing it up.”
In a heated battle with Oklahoma City for the Western Conference’s eighth and final playoff spot, the Pelicans look to bounce back Tuesday night against the Milwaukee Bucks at the Smoothie King Center.
With the Thunder having taken a one-game lead over the Pelicans, Tuesday’s game carries importance because New Orleans faces an extremely challenging road trip to Phoenix, Golden State and the Los Angeles Clippers beginning Thursday.
With Davis playing at such a high level that it netted him Western Conference Player of the Week honors, bouncing back for the Pelicans likely also means Gordon getting back in the groove.
“I think he was trying to take what the defense gave him (vs. Denver),” coach Monty Williams said. “And a lot of those shots … were late in the (shot) clock, too.
“He wasn’t himself shooting the ball (Sunday) night. Eric doesn’t miss that many 3s (4-of-11).”
Although he wasn’t getting to the rim as much and drawing the defense and passing to open teammates, Gordon’s drive with 14.2 seconds gave the Pelicans a 109-106 lead in the first overtime. Curling from the right side of the court, he drove left and scored on a left-handed floater in the lane.
With his driving more of late, scoring with his left hand keeps him going psychologically. Gordon missed 21 games after the labrum in his left shoulder was torn against Utah on Nov. 22.
“I’d finished with my left hand before, but it’s all about building confidence over time,” he said. “I’ve been trying to get it stronger but still trying to build confidence in it all the time.”
That he’s on the court has lent confidence to the Pelicans. Williams said Gordon’s decision to forgo shoulder surgery and instead rehab and continue playing is “one of the unsung acts of this season,” particularly with Holiday later being injured and now Anderson sidelined.
“(Gordon) could have had the surgery months ago, when it happened, and gotten himself ready for next year, which would be a contract year for him,” Williams said. “Most guys would have opted for that.”
Gordon, who missed 97 games over the 2011-12 and ’12-13 seasons because of a right knee injury, said sitting out six months after surgery to his labrum wasn’t appealing. He chose six weeks of rehab and strengthening and said he rarely has pain.
Being in the pressure and excitement of the playoff hunt has made it worth it. For now, the focus is coming back from a loss that was hard to take.
“I think defensively, we kind of lacked a little bit,” he said. “Other than that, we have to stay consistent in what we do and get some wins and see if we can make it to the playoffs.
Davis was chosen as the Western Conference’s Player of the Week for period from March 9 to Sunday. He averaged 31.3 points, second in the league last week, 10.0 rebounds, 6.0 assists and 4.7 blocks. It was his first such honor. … Williams said the team had a good practice Monday but also watched a lot of film on cutting down turnovers and improving on guarding the ball.