Celtics-Pelicans Preview

The New Orleans Pelicans held serve in Anthony Davis’ absence.

With their All-Star forward healthy again, they look ready for a final push toward a playoff spot.

Davis and the Pelicans aim for a seventh win in eight games Friday night when they host the Boston Celtics.

New Orleans (33-28) went 4-3 while Davis was sidelined due to a sprained right shoulder, winning four of five before he returned for Wednesday’s 88-85 victory over Detroit. Davis had 39 points, 13 rebounds and eight blocks in a dominant performance.

"The trainers and doctors did a great job of protecting it," Davis told the team’s official website. "I wasn’t trying to think about it. I knew they did a great job of getting it strong, as best as they can for this game. I’ll probably feel it (Thursday). In the game, it felt great."

Though the Pelicans managed to stay afloat without him, his return is crucial for a team just outside of the Western Conference playoff picture behind eighth-place Oklahoma City. The club hasn’t reached the postseason since 2011.

In only his third season, Davis surpassed David West’s franchise record of 435 blocked shots. Davis leads the NBA with 2.8 blocks per game and New Orleans is 10-3 when he has four or more.

"His ability to affect the game in so many ways says a lot about his talent and how hard he works at it," coach Monty Williams said.

Davis was also immense on the other end of the floor. The league’s fourth-leading scorer with 24.2 points per game went 17 for 30 despite a 1-for-6 start, compensating for his teammates going 20 for 60.

His absence allowed for more minutes for Alexis Ajinca, who proved he can be a consistent contributor. Ajinca had 10 points and 11 rebounds against the Pistons for his second straight double-double, and he’s averaged 13.8 points and 8.3 rebounds while shooting 66.0 percent in his last six.

Scoring against Davis and company could prove to be difficult for Boston, which is averaging 88.3 points on 36.5 percent shooting over its last three games. The Celtics (24-35) have had problems generating offense in the paint especially, totaling 54 points over the last two.

They needed a banked-in shot by Tyler Zeller as time expired to salvage an 85-84 win over Utah on Wednesday after squandering a late eight-point lead.

A number of players have struggled in the last three contests with Avery Bradley and Jae Crowder each shooting 13 for 39, while Evan Turner is 8 for 28 and Marcus Smart is 7 for 30.

Kelly Olynyk wasn’t able to provide an immediate boost in his return from an 18-game absence due to a sprained ankle, going scoreless on three shots in seven minutes against the Pistons. He had been averaging 11.1 points.

The Celtics won 108-100 at home Jan. 12 despite 34 points from Davis. Three other New Orleans starters were held to five points or fewer while Boston’s Jared Sullinger scored 27, though he’s out for the rest of the season with a foot injury.

Davis has averaged 23.2 points on 59.4 percent shooting in five career meetings, and the Pelicans have won three straight and six of eight at home in the series.