Balanced Celtics out-hustle, out-work out-of-sorts Pelicans _lowres

New Orleans Pelicans forward Anthony Davis (23) goes to the basket against Boston Celtics forward Amir Johnson (90) in the first half of an NBA basketball game in New Orleans, Monday, Dec. 7, 2015. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

Nearly two months ahead of his expected timetable for recovery, Pelicans center Kendrick Perkins said he will return to the floor on Friday night against the Washington Wizards.

Perkins suffered a torn pectoral muscle Oct. 31, which was supposed to sideline him for three months while the muscle healed. But he’s gotten himself onto the practice floor within the past two weeks and said he’ll be ready to play on Friday.

“I just worked hard, man, and I punched in the clock,” Perkins said. “I’m feeling good. I just got with our medical staff and made it work from there.”

Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry wasn’t as confident in setting a firm date for return, but said he wasn’t surprised the 6-foot-10 veteran is ahead of schedule, considering his dedication to physical therapy and rehabilitation.

“If you know Perk, you know he works as hard as anybody at practices or as hard as anybody in the weight room,” Gentry said. “If you know him from that standpoint, it doesn’t surprise you that he may have an opportunity to come back early.”

Perkins started the first three games, while centers Omer Asik and Alexis Ajinca were hampered by injuries of their own. The 12-year veteran scored 5.7 points and pulled in 2.7 rebounds in less than 10 minutes per game at the season’s onset.

He hasn’t played since getting tangled up two minutes into a 134-111 loss to Golden State on Halloween night.

“I was trying to foul somebody during the game,” Perkins said. “And I just wound up hurting myself.”

Quincy quandary

Pelicans small forward Quincy Pondexter is the last casualty from preseason still sidelined and coach Gentry said there’s a specific (but not announced) date for his return that can’t be pushed up.

An offseason surgery on Pondexter’s knee cartilage kept him from participating in any part of training camp and has kept him on the bench ever since.

“With Quincy, it’s just a matter of time and it’s not anything that you can rush,” Gentry said. “It’s a time thing, so when the time is up and he’s feeling better, he’ll play.”

Pondexter has publicly stated he will return before the calendar turns to 2016.

Meanwhile, Gentry insisted there hasn’t been a setback. In the preseason, he said Pondexter wouldn’t return until at least November, but never mentioned a December start.

“He may have said he was going to be back by November,” Gentry said. “But realistically, he was never going to be back by November.”

Anxious Ajinca

The Pelicans’ small lineups, against an array of opponents, has cost center Alexis Ajinca some early playing time.

Since Nov. 22, the 7-footer was benched entirely for four games and then averaged just eight minutes per games in the other three, scoring 18 total points in those stints.

“He plays well in practice, and the matchups kind of get in the way sometimes,” Gentry said. “But I don’t want him to get discouraged, because I think he’s doing a good job and he’s playing great in practice. I just got to try to find a way to get him into the game for a few minutes, because I think he could be a help for us.”

Thanks to some early foul trouble by Anthony Davis, Ajinca logged an eight-minute stretch in the first half of Monday’s game, notching two points and a rebound.

Pelican scoops

The Celtics played without power forward David Lee and rookie guard R.J. Hunter, who were both questionable.