If we fear what we don’t understand, then it’s hard to blame Anthony Davis for his reaction to his latest injury scare.
The Pelicans forward, who is expected to play Wednesday against the Rockets in Houston after missing Saturday’s loss to Minnesota, admits he was a bit shaken by a toe injury that seemed to come on out of nowhere.
Davis was warming up for a game against the Minnesota Timberwolves — “nobody was behind me or guarding me,” he said — when he started to feel pain in his right big toe.
“It was just a simple routine I do, I’ve been doing for the past four years,” Davis said. “Those are the scariest ones, when nobody’s on you, you just get an injury.”
Ultimately, Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry said, Davis was diagnosed with turf toe, a joint sprain in the right big toe. After missing a game and Monday’s practice, Davis was back on the court Tuesday and “seemed fine,” Gentry said, participating in a full practice without pain.
“I think it probably scared him more than anything,” Gentry said. “He was like, ‘Here we go again.’ Now that he understands exactly: It’s just kind of turf toe; you just have to deal with it on a daily basis.”
The Pelicans expect to have Davis back Wednesday — he’s officially listed as questionable — and they could use him in what figures to be a critical game for New Orleans’ slim playoff hopes.
At 29-31, the Rockets entered Tuesday night in the eighth and final Western Conference playoff spot, a half game ahead of Utah, four ahead of Sacramento and five ahead of New Orleans.
If the Pelicans have hopes of making a late playoff push — and with 24 games to play, they insist they do —stealing a road game against the Rockets is critical.
“Nobody has really made the separation between eighth and 11th,” Davis said. “We’ve just got to find a way.”
The gap between the Pelicans and Rockets is significant but not insurmountable. And though it’s cause for a glimmer of hope, it’s also “the most frustrating thing for us,” Gentry said.
New Orleans knows it’s had opportunities to close that gap, but the Pelicans have stumbled. They lost to 19-win Minnesota on Saturday without Davis, a blow to their playoff hopes in a stretch when Houston, Utah and Sacramento all have lost at least two in a row.
“Twenty-something games left, and we got to come out and play desperate these last 20-plus games and make sure that we win,” Davis said. “Of course we need other teams to lose, and when they do, we got to make sure that we capitalize off their losses.”
Capitalizing on a chance to beat the Rockets — particularly with Davis back in the lineup — is particularly important if the Pelicans are “even remotely trying” to get back into the playoff hunt, Gentry said. But he cautioned that his team can’t afford to look at games against playoff contenders any differently than the rest of the schedule.
“For us, every game is going to be like that, though,” Gentry said. “Doesn’t matter if we’re playing a Western Conference (or) Eastern Conference (team). We just got to have wins if we’re going to be any kind of factor as far as getting back in the playoff race.”