Who knew getting to four in a row would be this easy?
Against a team that had beaten you by 15 just 10 days ago.
Especially after the effort it took for the Pelicans to beat Dallas on Sunday to achieve their first three-game wining streak of the season.
To be fair, the Pelicans’ 96-81 loss at Philadelphia came without Anthony Davis and Jrue Holiday in the lineup and with 2014 Rookie of the Year Michael Carter-Williams getting 22 points to lead the 76ers.
On Monday, Davis was back, and Carter-Williams was out with flu-like symptoms, joining three others on the shelf for the Sixers, and leaving Larry Drew, a 10-day contract signee, starting in his place.
The Pelicans found themselves going against the kind of roster of which Sports Illustrated’s Matt Dolby said in his NBA power rankings (Philly was last): “I don’t recognize a number of names in the Sixers’ box scores, and I do this for a living.”
That’s what happens when you’re (cough) allegedly tanking even though you already stacked with draft picks including Nerlens Noel (two points), who lasted with the Pelicans for about 30 seconds before being traded for Holiday on draft night in 2013.
Small wonder than the Pelicans cruised to a 99-74 victory with Davis sometimes looking like he was practicing his All-Star Game moves. AD had 32 points, 10 rebounds, four blocks and three steals before he and the rest of the starters sat out the fourth quarter after securing the season’s first back-to-back sweep in 10 tries.
The Sixers, 8-37 and losers of six straight since beating the Pelicans, drew pregame praise from Pelicans coach Monty Williams because of the way they outhustled his team in their first meeting.
But Philadelphia coach Brett Brown (bonus points if you know that name), acknowledged before the game that his team was at a considerable disadvantage without Carter-Williams and Tony Wroten, his top two scorers, while commending his players’ coachability and attitude, especially since the scoreboard is against them so much.
But on Monday, the 14-point underdog Sixers were close to being willing victims, especially when Davis was doing his thing.
An alley-oop pass from sudden assist maven Tyreke Evans (12 for the second night in a row) for a thundering dunk that brought the Smoothie King Center crowd, apparently still drained from the night before, to life for the first time.
A fast-break bounce pass from Eric Gordon that Davis fielded, took a dribble and then did a 360 before putting in the layup.
Davis coming across the lane, touching the top of the rim, getting a pass on the other side from Gordon and putting in the dunk.
Those moves are going to look great in Madison Square Garden on Feb. 15, especially if the East stars put up as little resistance as the Sixers did.
Folks, Davis is no longer the game’s next great player. He is that now.
But that’s a story for another time.
Monday’s story was the team taking care of business against a foe that really had no chance.
The Pelicans led from all but the opening minutes, dominated the boards 52-38 had 28 assists out of 38 baskets. And whenever the visitors did pull close, the Pelicans turned it up a notch.
What Monday also meant is that the Pelicans, who looked like they were at best a .500 team when the midseason point was reached a week ago with that loss at New York, have now climbed three games above break even for the first time since 2011.
They’re just 1½ games behind Phoenix, a 30-point home court loser against the Los Angeles Clippers on Sunday, for eighth place in the Western Conference. And they are two up on Oklahoma City.
The forgiving part of the schedule continues Wednesday when Denver, with six straight losses going into their game against the Los Angeles Clippers late Monday, come to New Orleans.
Don’t forget though that when the Pelicans played at Denver on Nov. 21, they were embarrassed 117-97.
No doubt the Pelicans will be remembering that loss, just as they had the first Sixers game on their minds Monday. Those losses and others to sub .500 teams will loom large in April and certainly can’t be repeated at home.
But for now, five in a row anybody?