After an emotional, buzzer-beating victory against the Thunder in Oklahoma City on Friday night, the New Orleans Pelicans were back in the Smoothie King Center on Saturday to play the Chicago Bulls.
But the Pelicans left their legs and most of their enthusiasm back in Oklahoma. And when star power forward Anthony Davis left the game with a right shoulder contusion after falling hard to the court midway of the second quarter, what was left of the Pelicans’ spirit vanished.
The fresher Bulls ran the Pelicans ragged in the third quarter on their way to a 107-72 rout. That was a season-low point total for New Orleans.
“I could point to a number of things, but I just didn’t feel like we had any juice tonight,” Pelicans coach Monty Williams said. “We did have a big win (Friday) night and used a lot of energy, but that’s what the NBA is. We played a desperate team that’s pretty physical, and they’d been sitting in Houston for a couple of days waiting on us, and they’re pretty good.”
Davis fell after dunking a lob by Tyreke Evans at 5:28 of the second quarter that gave the Pelicans a 32-30 lead. He lay on the court for about a minute, then got up. He was taken out of the game at the 4:16 mark.
By the end of the third quarter, it was announced that Davis, who hit the game-winning 3-pointer at the buzzer against the Thunder in Friday’s 116-113 win, would not return, and the Pelicans were hopelessly behind. He will be re-evaluated Sunday morning, Williams said.
Small forward Dante Cunningham said Davis’ departure took something out of the Pelicans.
“It was an ugly fall,” he said. “Obviously we’re friends and family. We had the game at hand, but we had to take (the injury) into consideration.”
It was the second injury for Davis in a week. He strained his left groin during the team’s loss to Denver on Jan. 30. He received treatment and missed one game before returning for the win against Atlanta on Monday.
The loss prevented the Pelicans (27-24) from coming within a half-game of the idle Phoenix Suns for eighth place in the Western Conference. And it was the second consecutive home loss for New Orleans, which fell to 17-8 in the Smoothie King Center. The Pelicans have home games against Utah on Monday and Indiana on Wednesday before the All-Star break begins.
Chicago (31-20), which led by nine points coming into the third quarter, made eight of its first nine shots to take a 66-42 lead by the 6:44 mark as the Pelicans shot 1-of-10. When Bulls guard Tony Snell took a long pass from Derrick Rose on a fast-break run-out after yet another Pelicans miss, the score was 75-46. Chicago had outscored New Orleans 40-11 since the time Davis left.
“The plan was to keep the energy up, keep the aggressiveness up throughout the game,” said Bulls power forward Pau Gasol, who tied Derrick Rose with a game-high 20 points and added 15 rebounds. “We knew it was going to be hard for them to keep up with us for 48 minutes. It was a tough hit for them because (Davis is) a player who makes such a big difference on both ends of the floor.”
Williams was left to play mostly reserves, with their fresher legs, the rest of the quarter, but the third ended with Chicago up 81-56.
In a sluggish first half, the Pelicans were outscored 12-2 in the final 3:24 of the second quarter as Chicago went into halftime leading 48-39. The Bulls cut off driving lanes against the leg-weary Pelicans, and New Orleans shot just 8-of-22 (36.4 percent) in being outscored 30-19 in the quarter.
The Pelicans scored 36 of their 39 points in the lane compared to just 14 by Chicago, and nine of their 24 rebounds were offensive.