Even without the services of Anthony Davis, the New Orleans Pelicans’ road woes took a turn for the better over the weekend.
The Pelicans’ superstar could return Monday night when New Orleans looks to send the lowly New York Knicks to a 17th consecutive loss.
The Pelicans (20-20) had dropped six of seven on the road before Sunday’s 95-93 win in Toronto. With Davis (left foot) and Jrue Holiday (right ankle) both sidelined, Tyreke Evans filled the offensive void with 26 points and the game-winning field goal with 1.6 seconds remaining, while Alexis Ajinca contributed a career-high 22 points off the bench.
"At some point you have to overcome and I’m always talking about that with our team," coach Monty Williams said. "Our guys got together and said look not tonight, if we’re going to lose we’re going to lose our way."
New Orleans has yet to move more than two games either below or above .500 this season, but that mediocrity has been perpetuated by poor play on the road, where it is 8-15. The Pelicans’ previous road defeat came Friday to eight-win Philadelphia and they have also lost at Charlotte and Boston this month.
”Doing that without Jrue and AD was big for us," Williams said. "We say you’ve got to take a gut punch. Most people don’t know how to take a gut punch … On the road, after the loss we had the other day in Philly, you would have thought we would have folded and we did not."
Davis, who is averaging 24.2 points and 10.4 rebounds this season, could return Monday, while Holiday’s status remains uncertain. Both players started in the Pelicans’ previous matchup with the Knicks – a 104-93 win on Dec. 9 – but like Sunday’s victory, Evans finished as the team’s top scorer with 27 points on 11-of-15 shooting.
That loss marked the ninth of a 10-game losing streak for New York (5-36), which is currently mired in a franchise-record 16-game skid with its last victory coming Dec. 12 against Boston. The Knicks fell 95-79 to Milwaukee in London on Thursday and have dropped the last nine contests by an average of 19.2 points.
"It’s just a recurring act. It’s the same thing happening over and over again," Carmelo Anthony said. "We’re the only people that can control that."
Anthony’s presence in the Knicks lineup had been scarce prior to Thursday’s defeat due to a lingering right knee injury, but the seven-time All-Star expects to play more regularly moving forward. The Knicks are 0-10 this season when their leading scorer does not play.
Amar’e Stoudemire should also see more playing time as he continues to nurse a knee injury. Stoudemire did not score in just over eight minutes against the Bucks, but coach Derek Fisher indicated that the veteran forward could have played more if necessary.
The Knicks rank near the bottom of the NBA in scoring offense (92.5 points per game) and scoring defense (101.7). They have also allowed the opposition 22.2 assists per game, which bodes especially well for New Orleans. The Pelicans, who had 19 assists in Sunday’s victory, are 0-10 this season when they record 18 or fewer assists.