Jrue Holiday’s injury is the latest in a line of significant setbacks for a New Orleans club trying to make a push toward postseason position in the competitive Western Conference.
Anthony Davis is back, though, and he’s confident the rest of the Pelicans can get through another tough situation.
New Orleans looks to win back-to-back games for the first time in over a month Friday night as it visits the Minnesota Timberwolves, who suffered the franchise’s worst defeat in the first meeting this season.
Holiday missed his fifth straight game Wednesday after being diagnosed earlier in the day with a stress reaction in his right leg that is expected to keep him out two to four more weeks. He’s among the league leaders with 7.1 assists per game while averaging 15.2 points.
The Pelicans (21-21) also will have to play without Ryan Anderson, who will miss Friday’s game with swelling and soreness in both ankles. Already shooting just 41.0 percent this season, Anderson had connected on just 28.8 percent in his last six games.
New Orleans hasn’t won consecutive games since beating Utah and Houston on Dec. 16 and 18, and sits four games back of Phoenix for the West’s final playoff spot.
"It’s just one more obstacle that we have to and can overcome," coach Monty Williams said.
Davis missed the previous three contests with a sprained toe before returning Wednesday with 29 points in a 96-80 win over the Los Angeles Lakers. Tyreke Evans scored 19 while Eric Gordon added 17 and a season-high 10 assists.
Evans has been filling Holiday’s spot at point guard and is averaging 22.7 points over the last three games. Gordon has played nine games, averaging 16.7 points in the last six, since missing 21 straight with a torn left labrum.
"We miss Jrue. He is one of our leaders," Davis said. "It is time for other guys to step up. Tyreke is running point. He is embracing that role and making sure that he is coming out trying to run the team the same way that Jrue would. We are just trying to figure things out with (Evans) at (point guard) and with Eric at (shooting guard)."
Everyone was clicking in the first meeting with the Timberwolves (7-34), as New Orleans set team records for margin of victory, total points and field-goal percentage (66.7) in a 139-91 win Nov. 14.
Holiday finished with 24 points, Davis added 22 and Gordon hit all four of his shots while scoring 11 as New Orleans finished with seven players in double figures. Andrew Wiggins had 20 for Minnesota, which allowed the most points and suffered the worst loss in team history.
The Wolves were off the mark again Wednesday, setting season lows for shooting percentage (34.8) and points in a 98-75 home loss to Dallas. They weren’t much better Monday in a 105-80 loss to Charlotte, shooting 36.3 percent to close a four-game road trip.
"I was disappointed with our overall energy," coach Flip Saunders said Wednesday. "I thought we’d come home (and) I thought we’d come out with more."
Wiggins had 18 points for the Timberwolves, whose nine-game home losing streak is their worst since dropping 10 in a row Feb. 10-March 28, 2010.
A bright spot Wednesday, though, was Nikola Pekovic scoring 14 off the bench in his return after missing 31 games with a right ankle injury.
"I thought the only guy that was really effective was (Pekovic)," Saunders said. "We have problems when guys start to get physical with our guys. They grab and they hold and they push, and we haven’t reacted in a positive way. They did that to (Pekovic) and he just gave it right back to them."
The Timberwolves haven’t won at home since beating Portland on Dec. 10, but they’ve won the last four meetings with the Pelicans in Minnesota.