The kid wandered out of the stands and onto the court late in the New Orleans Pelicans’ 99-91 win against the New York Knicks on Monday, just looking for a hug from Carmelo Anthony.
Anthony obliged, and the kid strolled back to the bench, thankfully unharmed.
The way Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry sees it, he was lucky. Not everybody gets out of the Smoothie King Center unscathed.
“It’s a moment for him,” Gentry said, then joked, “Got to be careful, though. He could slip and fall and hurt himself.”
There’s a lot of that going around.
The Pelicans welcomed Jrue Holiday back to the lineup after a two-game absence with a left toe injury — and saw him finish with 22 points, six rebounds and six assists to lead the Pelicans to their third win in 11 games — then watched as Holiday left the game late after taking a shot to the head.
After the game, Holiday was sporting a cut under his right eye, and Gentry said doctors were expected to examine Holiday’s right orbital socket.
Forward Alonzo Gee, the rare Pelicans player not to have missed a game all season due to injury, left early, too, with a third-quarter quad injury.
For a coach whose team has now lost 267 player games to injury and illness — seven Pelicans sat out Monday’s game, including five who are out for the season — Monday seemed to be the breaking point.
On a night when the Pelicans were mathematically eliminated from the playoffs, thanks to wins by Dallas and Utah, Gentry turned his postgame meeting with the media into a standup comedy act of gallows humor, laughing to power through the pain of yet another pair of injuries.
“I am going to send out an all-points bulletin for anybody in the French Quarter or anywhere else: We need a voodoo doctor or something here,” Gentry said. “We’ve got to find the bones under this place or we got to do something. Because this is becoming comical.”
Gentry was just getting started.
Told his team would be officially out of playoff contention after the Mavericks and Jazz games wrapped up, Gentry practically rolled his eyes.
“Oh yeah, we’re shocked,” Gentry said sarcastically of his 27-46 team. “I can’t believe that you brought that up, that we’re out of the playoffs. Man, we thought we had one more run in us. Especially with all the guys that we have healthy, and everybody’s back.”
Gentry was, seriously, pleased with his team’s effort Monday.
The Pelicans trailed 59-49 after a Robin Lopez dunk with 9:32 to play in the third quarter, but the Knicks would make only one more field goal in the quarter, and the Pelicans stormed back.
That comeback started with a 15-0 run. Holiday, Luke Babbitt and Dante Cunningham hit 3-pointers in a span of four possessions, and Cunningham’s gave New Orleans its first second-half lead at 60-59 with 5:30 to play in the third.
The Knicks led 85-84 with 3:06 to play in the game, but the Pelicans hit a pair of free throws on each of their next two possessions — two by Holiday — to regain the lead at 88-85. Holiday scored on each of the next two trips, giving New Orleans a 92-85 lead on a jumper with 1:19 to play.
New Orleans held on from there for its first win of the season in which it failed to score at least 100 points. The Pelicans are 1-33 in those games this season.
“The guys really did play hard, and they competed all the way through,” Gentry said. “Everyone we stuck in there, we just tried to find a way to scratch one out.”
Toney Douglas scored 16 points for the Pelicans. Luke Babbitt added 14, and Alexis Ajinca and Dante Cunningham had 12 each. Anthony scored 22 points to lead the Knicks, and Lopez added 17.
The win made Gentry happy. His team’s continued bad injury luck made him loopy. His seven-minute postgame news conference had reporters roaring with laughter.
He joked that, because of the number of fill-in players the Pelicans have signed, “We had more people in our team picture than the Saints” and got a big laugh with the possibility of even more replacements.
“Every guy in the D League right now is sitting by his phone saying, ‘OK, hey, this might be my chance,’ ” Gentry said.