Davis returns to lineup as Pelicans visit Suns (Dec 11, 2016)
The New Orleans Pelicans get their depth checked Sunday night when they duel one of the deepest teams in the league, the Phoenix Suns, in a clash of struggling Western Conference squads.
The Pelicans were without five injured players when they suffered a 133-105 drubbing at the hands of the Los Angeles Clippers at the Staples Center on Saturday night.
With no rest for the weary, the club completes its seventh back-to-back of the season Sunday at Phoenix.
Despite a poor overall record (7-17), the Pelicans have held their own recently in dealing with the rugged schedule. They’ve won two of their last three when playing on the second night of a back-to-back, with the loss — 110-108 against Memphis on Monday — going two overtimes.
To add insult to injury, the Pelicans already have played a total of five overtimes this season, one in which they’ve yet to get Tyreke Evans (knee surgeries) and Quincy Pondexter (knee surgery) on the court.
The Pelicans also were without Jrue Holiday (turf toe), E’Twaun Moore (bruised toe) and Dante Cunningham (broken right leg) in Saturday’s game, and chose to give their best player, Anthony Davis, the night off to rest.
Davis is expected to play Sunday against the Suns, and it’s possible Holiday and Moore will return as well. Holiday has played only nine games this season, having been excused for the first 12 to be with his wife during and immediately following brain surgery.
Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry broke the news to Davis before Saturday’s game. The rationale: The standout had played 132 minutes (44 per game) in three contests over the previous six days.
“He’s not real happy about it,” Gentry noted to reporters of Davis’ reaction to the plan. “Believe me.”
The Suns have a health concern of their own, but received good news over the weekend when T.J. Warren, who has missed the last 10 games with a concussion, was cleared to return to practice.
He won’t play Sunday, but he could be back in action by the end of the week.
Even with P.J. Tucker often promoted from the bench to replace Warren, the Suns counted heavily on their reserve crew this season. They are coming off a 119-115 road win against the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday night in which three backups scored in double figures, led by Leandro Barbosa with 21.
For the 34-year-old Barbosa, the point total equalled his highest in almost five years (22 at Atlanta on Jan. 16, 2012), and his five 3-pointers equalled his most in nearly nine years (six at Toronto on Dec. 22, 2007).
“I was tired,” Barbosa admitted to reporters after his 29-minute effort. “We were passing the ball to each other. That got open shots for everyone. If we keep doing what we did tonight, we’re going to surprise people.”
Even on the second night of a back-to-back, being tired shouldn’t be an issue for the Pelicans on Sunday night. Only two guys played more than 31 minutes in the blowout loss to the Clippers — and those guys (Buddy Hield and Tim Frazier) are 22 and 26 years old, respectively