Alvin Gentry is accustomed to creating new starting lineups.
Entering the 42nd game of the season, the New Orleans Pelicans coach drew up his 19th different starting lineup before Saturday’s 116-99 win over the Milwaukee Bucks.
Small forward Dante Cunningham was suffering from an illness, which sidelined him for the evening. It forced Gentry to shake up the lineup again, thrusting Alonzo Gee back into a starting role for the first time since Jan. 8. But Cunningham’s illness isn’t expected to be a long-term ailment.
“It’s just one of those things with his stomach and stuff like that,” Gentry said. “It’s probably short-term.”
Including Quincy Pondexter, who is out for the season with a cartilage issue in his right knee, Pelicans players have missed 128 games to injury and illness.
Creating a new lineup is now a familiar routine.
“Not that I like it, no,” Gentry said. “I would like to have the same lineup, but it has become habit this season. It’s just one of those kind of seasons. What I do like about our guys is they have started to look past it and just play. I think it was a little frustrating at the start, with the bad start that we had and the new lineups every night and stuff like that.
“I think they’ve kind of understood that this is the way the season is, and we just have to lock in and play. So I’ve really appreciated that they’ve been able to just look past it and play.”
Two point guards are better than one. But getting Jrue Holiday and Tyreke Evans, the Pelicans’ best guards, on the court together has been a challenge.
In the past five games, the pair has averaged just 5.9 minutes per game together, the fewest among any two players who log significant playing time. And Saturday’s stat line showed a wide disparity in the Pelicans’ performance depending on who took the floor.
New Orleans outscored the Bucks by 32 points in Holiday’s 25 minutes while being outscored by 12 in Evans’ 24. The plus-32 result was one Holiday said he didn’t think was possible; he displayed shock when informed about it after the game.
“I didn’t even know you can do that,” he said. “I guess it’s a good thing, right? We got the win, so that’s the only thing that matters. But I’ve never had anything like it before.”
While Holiday’s 13 points and nine assists were a respectable stat line, teammates said the plus-32 number is a better indication of how impressive he was Saturday as an offensive facilitator, not to mention a perimeter defender.
“It’s just unbelievable,” Gentry said. “It really is unbelievable.”
There has been an odd consistency to the Pelicans’ three-game winning streak.
All three opponents (Detroit, Minnesota and Milwaukee) came to the Smoothie King Center and scored 99 points, while the Pelicans’ scoring grew from 114 to 115 to 116.
It raises the Pelicans’ record to 16-7 when cracking the 100-point barrier.
“On both ends of the floor, I think we are clicking,” Anthony Davis said. “This is how we envisioned it during training camp. It’s starting to come around, and it looks really nice.”
Gentry on Blatt
Several NBA coaches had strong words firing the Cleveland Cavaliers’ sudden firing of David Blatt on Friday.
The second-year coach had the Cavs at the top of the Eastern Conference and led them to the NBA Finals last year, so news of his termination sent shockwaves through the league.
Gentry expressed surprise, but not the kind of shock and anger many others offered, when asked for his reaction to the news.
“As a coach, I think it’s tough,” Gentry said. “You’re 30-11 and you feel like you’re doing a good job and you haven’t had your team together. But I don’t really worry about it. I only worry about it as in, he’s a coach and he’s in our profession, but I don’t know anything about the whole franchise or what’s going on there.
“Believe me, I’ve got my own troubles right now. So I don’t look at anything except how we can get better here. Just from a coaching standpoint, yes, it was a surprise.”
Milwaukee double-teamed Davis on every offensive touch at the game’s onset, holding Davis to 1-of-5 shooting in the first quarter. … Norris Cole was whistled for two fouls in the first two minutes, forcing Toney Douglas to play most of the first half. … New Tulane athletic director Troy Dannen took in the game from courtside seats.