While the New Orleans Pelicans have an opportunity to move into a tie for the final Western Conference playoff spot, the host Brooklyn Nets are hoping to put an end to their fade in the East.
Two teams heading in opposite directions meet Tuesday night when Anthony Davis-led New Orleans aims for its ninth win in 11 games.
On Feb. 20, the Pelicans (35-29) fell two games behind eighth-place Oklahoma City while also trailing Phoenix after losing a season-high fourth in a row at Orlando.
Davis suffered a shoulder injury in the first game of that skid and missed seven of the next nine games, but New Orleans managed to turn things around with a season-high five-game run to begin this 8-2 stretch.
The All-Star has been outstanding upon his return, averaging 33.5 points, 11.8 boards and 4.5 blocks in the past four games. He matched a career high with 43 points Monday to lead the Pelicans to a 114-103 win at Milwaukee.
”He’s doing it against double-teams, in transition. A couple times he got fouled on his jump shot and he didn’t let it bother him,” coach Monty Williams said. ”He had 43 against a really good defensive team.”
New Orleans, now ahead of the Suns, can draw even with the Thunder for the West’s final playoff spot with a sweep of its brief road swing. The franchise hasn’t qualified for the postseason since 2010-11.
The Pelicans will try to top Brooklyn for the second time in two weeks after a 102-96 home win without Davis on Feb. 25. Quincy Pondexter had a career-high 25 points and hit a 3-pointer with 49.9 seconds left to seal the victory.
Tyreke Evans contributed 15 points and 11 assists in that contest, and his 21.6 career average against the Nets is his highest versus any opponent. Evans, however, is uncertain to play after leaving Monday’s game with an ankle injury.
The Nets (25-36) stood eighth in the East following a three-game winning streak to begin February, but they’ve since gone into a 4-8 tailspin to fall 2 1/2 games out of a playoff spot. After Sunday’s 95-88 loss to Utah, they’ll look to avoid a fourth straight defeat in the finale of this five-game homestand.
Coach Lionel Hollins attempted to shake things up Sunday by inserting Brook Lopez and Thaddeus Young into the starting lineup. That duo combined for 38 points, though fellow starters Joe Johnson, Deron Williams and Markel Brown only had 18.
”It’s just we’re in a tough situation where we’re fighting for a playoff spot and we’re playing really badly," said Williams, who has averaged 9.0 points on 23.3 percent shooting during the skid. "It’s like we take one step forward and two steps back."
The Nets shot 50.0 percent Sunday after connecting on 37.3 percent in losses to Charlotte and Phoenix. However, they were outrebounded 43-30 and let Utah make 10 of 22 from 3-point range.
New Orleans had a 43-37 advantage on the boards and sank 11 of 25 from 3 in the first meeting. The Pelicans hope to fare even better with a healthy Davis after they were outscored 52-42 in the paint and 16-9 on second-chance points.
Johnson finished with 21 points and 10 rebounds for Brooklyn, while Young scored 19 off the bench.
The Nets have won four of the past five home meetings dating to their time in New Jersey.