MINNEAPOLIS — Injuries can decimate a team.
The New Orleans Pelicans are trying to make sure that doesn’t happen.
Guard Jrue Holiday missed his fifth game in a row on Friday night with a stress fracture in his right lower leg and forward Ryan Anderson was out of the lineup for the first time all season with bi-lateral ankle inflammation.
With a shorter bench than usual, the Pelicans are trying to make do.
“The best thing about it is we’ve been through it all season long, guys in and out of the lineup hurt,” Pelicans forward Dante Cunningham said. “So we just know that every night we have to have somebody step up and continue to play.”
Cunningham and his teammates came through against the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Cunningham, who was signed by the Pelicans as a free agent Dec. 4, had a big night against his old team. He scored 14 points and went 7-for-12 from the field. The sixth-year forward also pulled down three offensive rebounds. Cunningham had been averaging just 4.7 points per game for the season.
“The second half, his energy kind of carried us,” Pelicans coach Monty Williams said. “Wiggins had been playing pretty well, and (Cunningham) flushed him into some tough situations — offensive rebounding, knocking down shots. We need someone to step up and give us a big punch, and he gave us five boards and timely jump shots from the baseline and top of the key.”
Cunningham is just one of the players who needs to be a factor in the absence of Holiday, who is expected to be out for 2-4 weeks, and Anderson.
Williams said he never pinpoints to one player to carry the load.
“Everybody will get their opportunity,” Pelicans All-Star forward Anthony Davis said. “Alexis (Ajinça) came in and has been playing well. All the guys. Quincy (Poindexter) came in, Nate (Wolters). Everybody’s coming in and playing well, and that’s what we’ve got to do.
“When you’re number’s called, you’ve got to make sure that you step up and play well.”
Wolters has been logging more minutes – averaging 18 in the past two games. The second-year guard has also been highly productive, scoring 11 points and eight rebounds in the pair of contests.
Having to go with a shorter bench is a big obstacle for the players as well as the coaching staff.
“You can never get used to it, because they’re two key components to our team,” Davis said. “We’re just trying to make up for the amount of points and the defensive intensity that they bring. When they get back, we’re going to try to figure it out with them back on the floor. Right now, we’re just trying to pick up the slack.”
Williams is getting used to his team playing shorthanded.
“We just figure out a way to make decisions and put guys on the floor that can make plays for you,” Williams said. “Ryan should be able to play this weekend (against Dallas on Sunday at the Smoothie King Center), we’ll see. But if not, we’ll do it again.”