DENVER — Just 48 hours before Alvin Gentry chided his team for “not giving a damn” during a lopsided loss to Phoenix on Friday night, he had coached his Pelicans to one of their most impressive fourth-quarter efforts of the season in a 104-94 victory at Utah.
The Pelicans had used their length, athleticism and considerable talent to push the pace against a Jazz team that loves slow it down.
That the dreadful effort against the Suns had come on the heels of what looked like a corner-turning outing against Utah made it especially difficult to swallow.
“We’ve been on a little bit of a roller-coaster,” Gentry said before his team closed a five-game road trip with Sunday night’s game against the Nuggets. “We have to find some kind of way that we can be consistent night in and night out. That’s the most important thing so that we know what we are going to get from each player.”
Since its 1-11 start, New Orleans has had moments when it has looked like the playoff team of a season ago. The Pelicans followed that wayward start with a three-game winning streak that included a win over San Antonio, then lost four in a row before beating the defending Eastern Conference champion Cavaliers.
A down year in the Western Conference, at least relative to the records its teams have produced in recent seasons, gives the Pelicans hope that they haven’t been completely buried by their awful start, but only, Gentry said, if this team can find a way to produce more balanced efforts.
Nuggets coach Mike Malone said Sunday he believes New Orleans will find the consistency its first-year coach craves.
“This team at some point is going to find their rhythm,” Malone said. “They are too talented not to.”
More touches for Davis
One of the problems the Pelicans faced from the start Friday against Phoenix was an inability to get star Anthony Davis in rhythm.
Davis had only three field-goal attempts, with one make, in the first half. He had just one shot in the first quarter, and the Pelicans quickly fell into a double-digit hole.
Gentry said it has to be more incumbent on everyone to make sure Davis doesn’t go long stretches without touching the basketball.
“He needs to have the ball,” Gentry said. “We have to find a way to throw the ball to him, be it isolation on the elbow or whatever. For him to have four touches or four shots, that’s not good for us.”
Pelicans center Alexis Ajinca was inactive Sunday with a calf injury he suffered Friday.
There was no timetable given for his return.
“We’ll just have to figure it out and see how it goes,” Gentry said.