Injuries come at inopportune time for Pelicans _lowres

Associated Press photo by Matt York -- Pelicans forward Anthony Davis

OAKLAND — The injuries continue to pile up for the New Orleans Pelicans who head into Friday’s game just one game behind the Oklahoma City Thunder for the last spot of the Western Conference playoffs.

Already missing All-Star big man Anthony Davis for the second straight game because of a rolled ankle, Pelicans coach Monty Williams originally listed guard Tyreke Evans and center Omer Asik as questionable.

After going through warm-ups, Williams decided that Evans is good enough to start for the Pelicans while Asik will be forced to miss the game because of a right calf strain.

The loss of Asik comes after Williams praised the big man for more than his on-court attributes.

“We really like Omer (Asik), not just as a defender, that’s what I liked when I saw him in Chicago,” Williams said. I love his IQ for the game. He knows things that most coaches don’t know; he’s a really smart player. He helps a lot of our guys out, put out fires on the floor, and he’s the ultimate team guy.”

The 7-foot-0, 225-pound center is averaging 7.4 points, 10.0 rebounds and 0.9 assists per game.

Center Alexis Ajinca will get the start for the Pelicans instead, who is averaging 6.7 points, 4.7 rebounds, and 0.7 assists per game. It will be his seventh start of the season.

Williams has liked what he has seen in Ajinca recently, who finished with 10 points, seven rebounds and four assists in the Pelicans’ 74-72 loss to the Phoenix Suns on Thursday night. Williams attributes much of his recent success to better conditioning.

“Last night he had a dunk in the lane after he had already gone up and down the floor 10-12 times and he dunked the ball on their defense chest-to-chest, he couldn’t do that last year.”