Big men to do battle in Pelicans-76ers matchup (Dec 20, 2016)

New Orleans Pelicans forward Anthony Davis is coming off one of his worst games of the season. Philadelphia 76ers rookie center/forward Joel Embiid is coming off his best.

The two big men square off Tuesday night, when the Pelicans (9-20) close out a three-game road trip against the Sixers (7-20) in Philadelphia.

Davis, the NBA’s second-leading scorer (29.6), managed 12 points in Sunday’s 113-100 loss in San Antonio. It was his second-lowest total of the season, and came two days after he was limited to 22 minutes by a left lower-leg contusion in a 122-100 loss in Houston. He scored 17 points in that one.

Embiid, meanwhile, piled up a career-high 33 points in Sunday’s 108-107 victory over the Brooklyn Nets, and added 10 rebounds and three blocked shots.

“For the first time, all over, he wanted to dominate the game,” coach Brett Brown said.

Embiid said he was feeling the effects of a head cold before the game, but he nonetheless made 12 of 17 shots from the floor and added 10 rebounds and three blocked shots. His 3-pointer with 2:43 left put the Sixers ahead to stay, as they snapped an eight-game home losing streak.

Philadelphia has, however, won just three times in its last 13 games.

There is also some intrigue with the Sixers, as Brown announced before Sunday’s game that center/forward Nerlens Noel will not be part of the team’s frontcourt rotation for the foreseeable future. Noel missed the season’s first 23 games following minor knee surgery, then sprained his left ankle upon returning last Sunday in Detroit.

That caused him to miss last Wednesday’s loss to Toronto, and he saw only eight minutes of court time in Friday’s loss to the Los Angeles Lakers. Afterward he complained about his role, as well as the fact that management has failed to alleviate the team’s logjam at center. Noel, Embiid and Jahlil Okafor, all highly drafted players in recent years, are all best suited to playing that position

Brown, however, is now starting Embiid and Okafor in tandem, then alternating the two of them at center. The coach believes that trying to find minutes for Noel disrupts the “balance and flow” of the Eastern Conference’s worst team.

On Monday general manager Bryan Colangelo told reporters that Brown “didn’t mean Nerlens wouldn’t play at all,” though Brown did say Noel would only see the court if someone gets in foul trouble or something of that nature.

“We’re trying to determine if (Noel) is a fit for this roster,” Colangelo told reporters.

Colangelo also said there is “considerable interest” in Noel throughout the league, but also “trepidation” about trading for him, since he has barely played. Colangelo went on to say that he doesn’t feel he has to make a deal before the end of this season.

Embiid managed 14 points on 5-of-15 shooting in the Sixers’ 99-88 victory over the Pelicans on Dec. 4 in New Orleans. He also contributed seven rebounds.

Davis had 26 points and 11 boards for New Orleans that night, but shot just 8 for 21 from the floor.

He was also limited to two points on 1-of-7 shooting after the first quarter of Sunday’s loss in San Antonio. He missed seven of 12 shots in all.

The Pelicans’ other top scorers this season are ex-Sixer Jrue Holiday (14.6) and Tim Frazier (10.9).

New Orleans forward Dante Cunningham returned Sunday after missing the previous 12 games with a fractured right fibula. Solomon Hill is not with the team because of the birth of a child, and Quincy Pondexter (knee) is out.