After beating three of the NBA’s better teams, the New Orleans Pelicans look to sweep a four-game homestand by taking down one of its worst.
The Pelicans can do so and extend their season-high winning streak to five games Friday night against a Utah Jazz team that’s on the verge of its first 50-loss season in nine years.
New Orleans (31-40) opened its home stay by shooting 51.2 percent in a 105-95 win over Miami last Saturday. The Pelicans followed with a 109-104 overtime victory against Brooklyn two nights later and with nine players beat the Los Angeles Clippers 98-96 on Wednesday.
"There’s an appropriate fear that you have to have of your opponent but then there’s a line that you don’t cross, which is too much respect," coach Monty Williams said. "We believe in our talent and the work we put in."
Though New Orleans is 12th in the Western Conference and set to miss the playoffs for a third straight season, it’s won eight of 11 and is in position to win five straight for the first time since a 10-game run Jan. 9-26, 2011.
"We’ve got a great group of guys who continue to compete at a high level with a number of things against us," Williams said.
With Eric Gordon (knee) sitting a third straight game and guards Brian Roberts (knee) and Austin Rivers (upper respiratory infection) also out, the Pelicans overcame a 42.2-percent shooting effort by holding the Clippers to 41.3 and outscoring them 56-28 in the paint.
Anthony Morrow scored a season-high 27 in just his sixth start and Anthony Davis added six blocks. Davis’ former Kentucky teammate Darius Miller scored 16 in 28 minutes and hit a key 3-pointer and a 16-foot jumper late to help the Pelicans maintain their lead.
Davis averaged 31.3 points in nine games prior to scoring 16 on 5-of-19 shooting Wednesday, and is pulling down 13.5 boards per contest over his last 10.
He’s averaged 25.0 points with 12.0 rebounds in the last three versus Utah (23-49). Davis totaled 22, nine boards, eight blocks and four assists as the Pelicans evened the season series by snapping a four-game skid to the Jazz with a 105-98 home victory Nov. 20.
Last in the West, Utah will try to avoid a third consecutive defeat and delay its first 50-loss season since going 26-56 in 2004-05.
The Jazz blew a 16-point second-half lead and were outscored 29-16 in the fourth quarter of Wednesday’s 91-87 loss to Memphis. Utah shot 46.4 percent – its highest in seven games – but committed six of its 13 turnovers in the fourth to lose for the 13th time in 15 games.
"We left it out there, we played hard for 48 minutes, but didn’t always play smart for 48 minutes," said guard Trey Burke, who had 10 assists. "We can learn from this."
Utah’s Gordon Hayward had 18 points after scoring 32 in Monday’s 114-94 loss to Detroit. He totaled 50 while going 15 of 30 from the field and 8 of 15 from 3-point range in the last two home meetings against the Pelicans, but scored six and missed all eight 3-point attempts to finish 1 of 17 from the field at New Orleans in November.
Hayward did record a then career-high 11 assists in that loss.