PHILADELPHIA — Heading to Toronto and New York to complete their five-game Eastern Conference road swing, the New Orleans Pelicans will continue to try to become road warriors — and more consistent ones at that.
The Pelicans appeared set to gain some momentum Friday night in Philadelphia when they faced a hapless Sixers team that had won seven games overall and had lost 16 of its first 18 games at home. The stage was set for the Pelicans to shake off their doldrums after they posted an impressive victory at Detroit two nights earlier, improving to 7-15 on the road.
But after starters Anthony Davis (sprained left toe) and Jrue Holiday (inflamed right ankle) were late scratches, the Pelicans came out flat and Philadelphia took advantage as it rolled to a 96-81 victory. The same Sixers team that entered the game as the worst shooting team (41.1 percent) in the league cashed in on 36 of 80 shots (45.0 percent).
In turn, the Pelicans (19-20) struggled to gain any offensive rhythm as they shot 38.7 percent. They also fell a point short of their lowest point total of the season (80), their record against the Eastern Conference fell to a woeful 1-8 and they have lost six of their past seven road games.
Another opportunity the Pelicans let slip away.
“We need to play team basketball,” coach Monty Williams said. “Our starters (against Philadelphia) played about 148 minutes combined, and we only had 10 assists and turned the ball over 14 times. It shouldn’t have mattered whether (Davis and Holiday) weren’t in the lineup; we need to play as a team and can’t get behind early. We haven’t embraced the challenge of identifying what we do every day and doing it on the floor on a consistent basis.”
On Sunday in Toronto, the Pelicans will meet the Atlantic Division leaders (26-13), who have dropped five of their past eight games, the most recent being a 110-89 defeat to Atlanta on Friday. Their offensive output against the Hawks was their lowest of the season, but the Raptors have won their past six meetings against the Pelicans.
Guard Kyle Lowry is the team’s leading scorer, averaging 20.1 points, and center Jonas Valanciunas has been a force on the boards with 12.8 points and 8.4 rebounds. Their effectiveness could be curtailed if Davis and Holiday are back in the lineup, likely a game-time decision.
If Holiday can’t go, Tyreke Evans will be back at point guard. Evans struggled against the Sixers, hitting only 3 of 7 shots. Backup center Alex Ajinca had a season-high 16 points and 14 rebounds to spark the Pelicans bench, which has productive in recent games. Jimmer Fredette added 13 points.
“We didn’t move the ball the way we needed to do,” Evans said. “We can’t fall behind, and we need to get some wins on the road. We had chances, and we need to take advantage of them.”
The Pelicans’ 34-point second half was a season low. … Without Davis, the Pelicans’ post players were outscored 48-20. ... The Raptors are averaging 107.1 points and have a 18-4 record against teams that are below .500. ... The Knicks (5-36) have lost 16 straight. Langston Galloway, the former Christian Life Academy standout, signed a second 10-day contract with the Knicks on Saturday. He is averaging 9.8 points per game.