NEW YORK — The road woes continue for the Pelicans. But the result was secondary to the health of their all-star center.
Anthony Davis, who registered 31 points and 12 rebounds before exiting the game with a groin injury in the third quarter, returned to action in the fourth quarter but the 7-foot-1 Davis wasn’t much of a factor down the stretch.
With Davis nursing the ailment, the Pelicans failed to stave off a determined Knicks squad, falling 114-109 Friday night. The Pelicans held a 101-92 lead with six minutes left in the game, but New York stormed back with a 22-8 run for the victory. Knicks guard Emmanuel Mudiay had 15 of his team-leading 27 points in the final quarter as the New York won their second-straight game.
“We won’t use (Davis’ absence) as an excuse,” Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry said. “We’re going to have to play a lot of games when we’re in foul trouble and we have to learn how to finish the games.”
The defeat drops New Orleans to 2-8 on the road as the team dropped its second straight game to an Eastern Conference opponent. The Pelicans fell to the 76ers on Wednesday night.
New Orleans didn’t have an answer for New York’s quick, penetrating guards. Mudiay and Allonzo Trier (25 points) helped fuel a 27-19 fourth quarter advantage. As the Knicks (6-14) found their offensive rhythm, the Pelicans (10-9) went 7-for-26 in the final period and were outrebounded 18 to 13 over that span.
“Basketball is basketball,” Gentry said. “If you can play at home, you can play on the road. We just need to do a better job of executing and finishing games.”
The Pelicans closed the gap to 111-109 with 8.2 seconds left on a dunk by Davis but Mudiay hit a free throw and a foul on E’Twaun Moore gave Tim Hardaway, Jr. two additional free throws with 7.4 seconds left for the final points of the game.
For a team that entered the game averaging nearly 120 points per game, the Pelicans offense came mainly from Davis (33 points), Jrue Holiday (22 points), and Nikola Mirotic (19 points). Moore, who entered the game averaging 16.9 points per game and had scored in double digits for seven consecutive games, was held to just a 3-point bucket in late in the game.
Even with Davis in the lineup, the Pelicans had another sluggish first half but this time it wasn’t the first quarter.
One of the biggest impediments for the Pelicans of late has been getting off to solid starts. When the teams last met on Nov. 16, the Knicks built a 19-point advantage before the Pelicans stormed back behind a 43-point effort from Anthony Davis to capture a 129-124 victory. This time, the Pelicans held a 34-28 first quarter advantage, primarily due to the blistering start by Holiday, who opened the first five minutes of the game with 10 points on 5-for-5 shooting with a pair of assists. But Holiday and his teammates experienced a cold stretch in the second quarter.
The Knicks used a 16-4 run in the second quarter as the Pelicans went 9-for-28 from the field with Davis carrying the offensive load, putting up 14 of his team-leading 24 points by halftime. Despite the offensive dry spell, the Pelicans were persistent in outrebounding the Knicks in the first half, 34-16, including a 16-5 advantage on the offensive glass.
Reserve guard Ian Clark provided a welcomed infusion of offense, collecting seven points in the opening quarter. Cheick Diallo, who played exclusively in the fourth quarter, gave the Pelicans a solid defensive presence in Davis’ absence with three blocks.
Knicks center Mitchell Robinson, a former standout at Chalmette, had five points in nine minutes of action before fouling out of the game.
The Pelicans continue their northeastern road trip Saturday for a 7 p.m. game with the Washington Wizards. This is the first matchup between the two teams, who will play twice over a five-day span.
Notes: Gentry (14-14) and David Fizdale (3-3) each entered Friday night’s matchup with .500 records all-time against the Knicks and Pelicans, respectively. …New Orleans is hoping to shatter a five-game losing streak to Washington on Saturday. The Pelicans have dropped 12 of their last 13 decisions to the Wizards. .. The Knicks used a vastly different starting lineup from the previous meeting between the squads a week ago. The guards remained the same with Hardaway, Jr. and Mudiay but the frontcourt went from a trio of Kevin Knox, Trier, and Robinson to Mario Hezonja, Noah Vonleh, and Enes Kanter. The Pelicans had only one change to their lineup. With Elfrid Payton out with a finger injury, New Orleans used a taller unit as Wesley Johnson took his spot.