After the New Orleans Pelicans had heavyweight bouts against the Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors in a three-day stretch, coach Monty Williams decided to let his players rest rather than practice Monday.
The team went through film study to correct mistakes and to refresh its memory on their next opponent, the Utah Jazz (6-18). Tuesday night’s matchup is the last of three straight at the Smoothie King Center for the Pelicans (11-12) before they jump into a grueling schedule that will take them into January.
More than any other players, the time off was meant to allow shooting guard Tyeke Evans and point guard Jrue Holiday a chance to recuperate. Williams, with his Pelicans 1-1 on the homestand, is eager to wrap it up with a victory.
“We didn’t have Anthony (Davis), no Eric (Gordon), so those guys had to play heavy, heavy minutes,” Williams said. “Tyreke went through a lot the past few days, and Jrue had his hands full (Sunday).”
It likely will be a game-time decision whether Davis will play. He left Friday’s win against Cleveland at 5:30 of the first quarter after suffering a chest contusion. He missed Sunday’s game because he was still experiencing a lot of pain.
Williams said Davis probably needs a practice session to determine whether he’s OK. The Pelicans will know more about his availability after Tuesday morning’s shoot-around.
In the Pelicans’ first meeting with Utah, Davis had a career-high 43 points on 16-of-23 shooting, adding 14 rebounds as the Pelicans won 106-94 at Salt Lake City on Nov. 22.
Gordon tore his left labrum in that matchup. He was driving to the basket when Jazz point guard Trey Burke pulled his left arm, and his shoulder came out of socket, he said.
With two starters out, Evans played 80 minutes, 26 seconds Friday and Sunday combined, and Holiday checked in at 78:51. Even with that heavy workload, they performed well.
Evans had back-to-back 30-point games for the first time in his career, getting 31 points and 10 assists against Cleveland before adding 34 points, eight rebounds, five assists, two steals and two blocks in the overtime loss to Golden State. He shot 26-of-49 in the two games, including 4-of-11 on 3-pointers.
The Warriors game was longer, but the Cleveland game appeared to be more taxing on Evans. After the game, he sat slumped in the chair in front of his locker.
Asked whether he was all right, he said: “Yeah. I just feel a little bit beaten up, and my (surgically repaired) knee is hurting. But I’ll be all right.”
Holiday has scored 30 points in two of the past three games — in Sunday’s duel with Golden State sharpshooter Stephen Curry and in last Wednesday’s loss at Dallas. It’s part of a five-game stretch in which he has averaged 22.2 points on 54.1 percent shooting (including 55.0 percent on 3s) and 8.4 assists per game.
“I’m just competing,” Holiday said. “I think we as a team are doing that — competing. We need AD, but we still need to win these games, and the only way to do that is to continue to play as hard as we can and as smart as we can.”
In the teams’ first meeting, Holiday helped Davis with 19 points, nine assists and six rebounds. Since that victory, New Orleans is 4-7 but has played better of late, even in losses to Dallas and Golden State.
Despite Gordon and Davis being out, Williams said he thinks the Pelicans have gotten more familiar with one another. He said he is encouraged by the battles at Dallas and especially without Davis against Cleveland and Golden State. Coming into Sunday, the Warriors had won 15 consecutive games by an average margin of 13.6 points.
“I think we can (get something out of it),” Williams said. “(Golden State) has played together for a while. They’ve been in a lot of those situations. Our guys are pretty new together in those situations, so I feel like we’re moving in the right direction.”
The Pelicans are 7-3 at home, including 3-3 against Western Conference foes. Utah is 2-9 on the road, including 0-5 against the West. … The Pelicans have scored 104, 104, 107, 119 and 122 in their past five games and are now 10th in the NBA in scoring (102.6). New Orleans has committed the second-fewest turnovers in the league (11.2). … Utah has six losses by six points or fewer and has beaten Cleveland, Oklahoma City and San Antonio. … Jazz power forward Derrick Favors sprained his right ankle Friday against Miami. He missed Sunday’s game at Washington.