Pelicans look to end homestand with win over 76ers
NEW ORLEANS — After blowing a nine-point lead with 3 1/2 minutes left and losing in overtime to struggling Sacramento on Friday night, the New Orleans Pelicans (13-13) conclude a four-game home stand Sunday night with a much tougher task — putting the clamps on the Philadelphia 76ers’ dynamic duo of Joel Embiid and rookie of the year candidate Ben Simmons.
Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry was so distraught with his team’s play in the fourth quarter and overtime in a 116-109 loss to Sacramento that he lit into his players for their lack of intensity. The Pelicans shot 11-of-31 from the floor and 1-of-8 from 3-point range and committed six turnovers in the final 17 minutes.
“You either want it or you don’t, that’s the bottom line,” Gentry said. “You either want to be good or you don’t.”
New Orleans center DeMarcus Cousins was particularly ineffective late, missing 10 of 12 shots from the field, including all five 3-pointers, and committing three turnovers after scoring 33 points in the first three quarters.
Anthony Davis is expected to start after returning the lineup following a three-game absence with a left adductor strain. The Pelicans will be playing the first of back-to-back games, but Davis said Saturday he hopes his minutes won’t be limited.
“Hopefully, I’m not sure what their plan is,” Davis said. “I haven’t talked to them yet, but that’s my goal.”
Davis had 18 points and six rebounds in 31 minutes against the Kings, and he scored eight consecutive points in the fourth quarter when it looked as though the Pelicans were pulling away, 100-91.
“We had a lot of defensive breakdowns,” Davis said of the collapse. “Offensively, we shot a lot of bad shots. That last three minutes, up (nine), that’s a game we have to win. We can’t allow ourselves to lose games like that, especially when we’re in a fight with five or six other teams (for the playoffs).”
The Sixers (13-12) have lost four of their last five games. With Embiid resting on the first game of a back-to-back — for the third time this season — the Sixers lost 105-98 at Cleveland Saturday night, but he will play against New Orleans. In his last game — a 107-104 loss to the Lakers — Embiid scored 33 points and had seven rebounds, six assists and five blocks in a career-high 36 minutes. It was Embiid’s second five-block game of the season..
Embiid has scored at least 20 points in five straight games. Embiid is is averaging 23.5 points, 11.1 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 2.0 blocks in 30.2 minutes per game. He and Cousins are the only NBA players averaging at least 23 points and 11 rebounds per game.
Simmons, who played his only year of college basketball at LSU, 80 miles from New Orleans, has had a spectacular season after missing his entire rookie campaign. The 6-10 point forward recorded three triple-doubles in his first 23 games. The only other players in NBA history to do that were Oscar Robertson (seven) and Magic Johnson (three).
Simmons is a leading candidate for rookie of the year, averaging 17.7 points, 9.5 rebounds, 7.5 assists and 2.2 steals.
Power forward Trevor Booker, acquired this week in a trade with that sent Jahlil Okafor, shooting guard Nik Stauskas and a 2019 second-round draft pick to the Brooklyn Nets, had 12 points and eight rebounds in 20 minutes in his Sixers’ debut against the Cavs.
T.J. McConnell, Philadelphia’s backup point guard, is out with a sprained AC joint in his left shoulder. The Sixers also are without guard Markelle Fultz (right shoulder) and Justin Anderson (left shin splints).
Also, Robert Covington fell into the stands in the final minute against Cleveland while trying to save the ball. He appeared to have injured his lower back.
“You just move on,” said Sixers coach Brett Brown. “You come to the gym. You look at who you got and you have faith in what you got.”