The star power dimmed considerably on Monday night in the Smoothie King Center.
The Pelicans played without its two best forwards as All-Star Anthony Davis (right shoulder sprain) and leading 3-point shooter Ryan Anderson (sore right elbow) were sideline with minor injuries in its 100-96 loss to the Utah Jazz. Coach Monty Williams said neither injury is particularly serious, but wasn’t certain whether either would return for New Orleans’ game on Wednesday night against Indiana.
Davis injured himself after falling on his shoulder at the tail end of an alley-oop during the second quarter of Saturday’s loss to the Chicago Bulls.
“He’s day-to-day. The doctors have examined him,” Williams said about Davis. “The trainers have given him a workup to try to get him as pain-free as possible. He wants to play.”
As for Anderson, Williams isn’t sure when he injured the elbow and said the team hasn’t put a timetable on the recovery, claiming it may be longer-term than day-to-day.
“Ryan may be a little bit more than that,” Williams said. “We’re going to see how he feels (Tuesday). He tried to shoot this morning, and it didn’t feel right. Both guys in are in the same boat. We just have to wait and see how they feel.”
It was the first time the pair missed the same game this season, thrusting backup center Alexis Ajinca into the starting lineup for the first time since Nov. 22. It forced the Pelicans to play him alongside Omer Asik, trading athleticism for size in a matchup against Utah’s physical frontcourt combo of Enes Kanter, Derrick Favors and Rudy Gobert.
Ajinca had previously found success when given extended playing time this season, nearly doubling his season average of 5.3 points when getting more than 15 minutes and scoring 14.2 in the six games he played more than 20. However, his time with the starters was limited after he was whistled for two fouls in the first four minutes and picked up a third shortly after getting back on the court in the second quarter, finishing with eight points, on seven shots, in 27 minutes.
Whether it was the starters or reserves, it was an unending struggle to contain Utah’s frontcourt. The series of rotating backup big-men struggled to keep up with the lengthy Jazz surrendering 46 points in the paint, 12 offensive rebounds which led to 30 second-chance points.
“They’re pushing a lot so it makes it hard to stop from them offensive rebounding,” Ajinca said. “That’s pretty much why they got that many.”
Jazz coach Quin Snyder said his team’s size can sometimes overwhelm an opponent, even against the bulked-up Pelicans’ lineup.
“We are big,” Snyder said. “So what you give up defensively being big and playing against smaller guys who spread the floor, it’s our chance to benefit from that on the offensive glass. Our guys were really rebounding tonight and they played hard, which is a big part of it.”
When guard Toney Douglas was picked up last week — at the conclusion of his season with the Jiangsu Dragons in Nanjing, China — the Pelicans likely weren’t expecting to see him relied upon the way he was on Monday.
The five-year NBA veteran, playing on a 10-day contract, helped defensively spark the sluggish Pelicans and earned minutes over the Pelicans’ typical reserve guard Jimmer Fredette. Douglas played 16 minutes in the first half alone, scoring six points and was counted on to play possessions in the fourth quarter.
The Pelicans’ fourth guard has impressed Williams with his tenacity and energy coming off the bench, particularly at the tail end of a 107-72 loss to Chicago on Saturday night, helping him jump Fredette in the rotation.
“I know my job here is to play with as much energy as I can bring,” Douglas said. “I just have to keep bringing that every chance I get.”
After pulling down just four offensive rebounds in the opening half, the Pelicans grabbed five offensive boards in the first possession of the third quarter. It concluded with Asik converting a putback while also drawing a foul on Kanter. ...The Pelicans converted eight of their first 11 3-pointers attempted, led by Eric Gordon, who made four in that span before finishing 7-of-8 from deep. ...Utah suffered through a six minute stretch without scoring at the end of the second quarter, watching a 39-38 lead become a 52-39 deficit. ...The Pelicans lost all four of the game’s jump balls. ...Pelicans’ forward Luke Babbitt logged a season-high 13 points, despite starting 19 prior games this year...The Jazz won its first game of the season season when it trailed at halftime.