By now, the injury bug is practically a second mascot for the Pelicans.
New Orleans has played extended stretches this season without Tyreke Evans and Norris Cole. It has gone games at a time with Alexis Ajinca or Omer Asik sidelined. There have been nights when Jrue Holiday couldn’t go, and Quincy Pondexter still hasn’t played a game — and the team confirmed Monday that he won’t play at all this season.
So if the Pelicans have to play without Anthony Davis — listed as questionable with a back contusion — when they take on the Lakers at 9:30 p.m. Tuesday in Los Angeles, at least it won’t be anything new.
“If we play hard, move the ball and makes shots, I think we’re pretty good if me or AD’s out, or Jrue — somebody that can score the ball,” Evans told reporters Monday in Los Angeles. “When a guy’s out, a guy’s stepping up. That’s what we got to do.”
New Orleans did it with some success Sunday, losing 114-111 in overtime to the Clippers in the first game of a three-game California road swing, an effort Davis called “amazing.”
The Pelicans went 0-for-5 from the floor in five fourth-quarter possessions in which they trailed 100-98. “We had a lot of open looks,” Davis said. “I think (Dante Cunningham) had three looks. Ryan (Anderson) had a wide-open 3, and at the end Ryan had a layup. It just didn’t go in for us, but I think the effort and energy was there. Battled back. Kept fighting. Especially on the road in a noon game, we just came ready to play.”
Ready or not, winning without Davis is a tall task. The 6-foot-10 forward leads New Orleans in scoring (22.8 points per game), rebounding (10.8), blocked shots (2.5) and steals (1.2).
The Pelicans are 0-4 this season in games Davis has missed entirely and 0-2 in games when he’s left in the first quarter because of an injury. They were 6-8 without Davis last season.
Davis left the first quarter of Friday’s home loss to the Indiana Pacers after diving into the stands chasing a loose ball. Davis landed on a row of empty seats behind the Pelicans bench and bruised his lower back.
“They said the person who (would have been) sitting there was a little boy with two broken arms,” Davis said. “That would have been bad.”
So it could have been worse — for the kid and for Davis, who said he felt “better” Monday than he had the previous two days, although there’s no guarantee he’ll be ready to go Tuesday night.
“I don’t want to do anything stupid or jeopardize anything,” Davis said. “I’m not sure yet. We’re going to see. Keep treating it and see how it feels (Tuesday).”
Whether or not Davis plays, he wants to see the Pelicans play Tuesday’s game in Los Angeles the way they did Sunday’s.
“We got to bring that type of effort throughout the whole game,” Davis said. “Shots just didn’t fall at the end for us, but if we play like that, we’re going to be on the other side of that next time.”