The New Orleans Pelicans had a chance to get back on track Monday against the Utah Jazz, a team far out of playoff contention.
However, with All-Star starter Anthony Davis out with a sprained right shoulder and sixth man Ryan Anderson, another power forward, out with an elbow injury, the Jazz continued the Pelicans’ recent misery. New Orleans (27-25) has lost its past two games, but more importantly, its past three home games.
On Wednesday, the Pelicans host the Indiana Pacers (20-33), whose record is one win better than Utah’s but who appear more able to win doing what the Jazz did: gobble up rebounds and play tough defense, especially late in the game.
“They’re not as athletic but are way more physical than (Utah’s big men),” Pelicans coach Monty Williams said. “So you’re going to have the same type of game, and we have to do a great job of keeping those guys off the glass and not letting them get to their sweet spots (scoringwise).”
The Jazz pounded the boards for 21 offensive rebounds against the smaller Pelicans. Indiana is 18th in the NBA in offensive rebounding but is eighth in second-chance points, making more 3-pointers off those opportunities than most teams.
Before Monday’s loss to the San Antonio Spurs in Indianapolis, the Pacers had won three consecutive games, the most since March of last season.
Ravaged by injuries, Indiana still beat the Pelicans 96-84 on Dec. 23 in Indianapolis.
Guard Eric Gordon said the Pelicans will have to get things going offensively against his hometown team.
“They are a physical team that clogs the paint defensively,” he said. “We need to knock down our outside shots more than normal, because they pack the paint and have great size.”
Gordon is coming off a bittersweet performance against the Jazz. He scored a season-high 31 points in which he shot 7-of-8 on 3-point attempts. However, he turned the ball over six times, including two in the fourth quarter, one with 58 seconds left that snuffed out the Pelicans’ final chance at victory.
The turnovers were the result of double-teams by Utah to get the ball out of Gordon’s hands and prevent him from scoring. And backcourt mate Tyreke Evans, who like Gordon scored 16 points in the first half, had just two on 1-of-7 shooting in the second half.
Jazz guard Elijah Millsap, like Evans 6-feet-6, played effective defense. Evans could not find driving lanes and took more outside shoots in the second half.
Going against Indiana point guard George Hill and 6-6 C.J. Miles, Evans and Gordon can expect much of the same. However, with Davis and Anderson expected to be sidelined again, and point guard Jrue Holiday not returning until after the All-Star break, the scoring load falls on Evans and Gordon again.
However, they’ll have to do more, Gordon said.
“Somebody has to get it going scoring because that’s the only way we can have a chance to win,” he said. “But with their size and clogging the paint all the time, we have to find the open man all the time, so we just have to make the right play.”
The Pelicans said Davis is questionable for the game and Anderson is out. Neither have been available to the media since their recent injuries, and the Pelicans canceled Wednesday morning’s shoot-around practice at the Smoothie King Center.
“There’s a chance (Davis) can play (Wednesday), but it’s all about how he feels when he wakes up, because he did a lot (Tuesday), from treatment to on-court stuff. Very little physical stuff.”
Although Davis likely will not play Wednesday, he still may play in Sunday’s All-Star Game, Williams said. Davis is a Western Conference starter.
“If he can play and he feels good, because he’s day-to-day, I don’t see why he wouldn’t play in the game,” Williams said. “I’m sure there’s these arguments: ‘If he can’t play with his team, then why should he play in the (All-Star) Game?’
“I’m not sure if that’s the case here. I just think he’s day-to-day; everyday he’s feeling better. So I wouldn’t rule it out. I’m hoping he plays (Wednesday).”
Davis is scheduled to participate in the Shooting Stars competition at All-Star Saturday night. He heads a team that also has Hall of Famer Scottie Pippen and WNBA All-Star Elena Delle Donne.
Holiday, who has a lower-right leg stress reaction, originally was diagnosed to miss two to four weeks. He has been out since Jan. 14. Williams said Tuesday that Holiday will be evaluated during the All-Star break.
Indiana’s loss Wednesday was the 1,000th victory for Spurs coach Gregg Popovich.