The New Orleans Pelicans enter Monday night's game at the Smoothie King Center against the Boston Celtics with a 1-9 record. Since they crawled out of the starting gate 1-11 last season, they are closing in on a repeat of that perverse history.
The 5-4 Celtics certainly seem to have an excellent chance to hand the Pelicans their 10th loss of the season, especially since it is unknown if forward Anthony Davis will be at full strength after taking an awkward fall in a 126-99 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday night.
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Davis fell to the floor in pain after making a floater in the lane in the third quarter to draw New Orleans within a point of the Lakers. He got up a minute later, holding his lower right back, and went to the locker room for six minutes.
When Davis returned, the Lakers led by 13 points and stretched their advantage to as many as 29 in coasting to the win despite Davis' game-high 34 points. No other Pelicans' starter scored more than seven points.
For an All-Star who is single-handedly carrying the Pelicans — Davis is averaging 31.3 points, 10.7 rebounds and 3.0 blocks a game — his back is too valuable for New Orleans to jeopardize his long-term health, even if his absence for even one game would make coach Alvin Gentry's job more difficult.
The Pelicans have not won in five home games this season.
“We're in a position where we have not done very good at home at all, and in this league, you have to take care of business at home because it's so difficult to win on the road,” Gentry said. “And we have not done that.”
The Celtics defeated the Indiana Pacers 105-99 on the road Friday night with an excellent closing spurt from guards Isaiah Thomas and Avery Bradley, who combined to score Boston's final 16 points.
Thomas, who scored 23 against Indiana, is playing despite a sprained left middle index finger. X-rays after the game were negative, but Thomas said it has affected his shooting.
“I tried but I couldn't feel the ball,” Thomas said. “I didn't shoot it as good and as much as I usually do. I'll try to figure out what I can do to adjust my shot and get comfortable.”
“I feel like (closing) is our role, that's what we are supposed to do,” Bradley said.
The Celtics have won four consecutive games against the Pelicans. Thomas averaged 27.0 points in Boston's two-game sweep of the Pelicans last season. Davis scored just 16 points in a 111-93 home loss to the Celtics last December and missed the series finale, a 104-97 road loss, because of a knee injury.
The one positive note for the Pelicans has been Davis' attitude. Despite his teammates' shortcomings, Davis has continued to hustle and say all the right things. He is averaging nearly 38 minutes a game, the third-highest average in the NBA. No big man is logging more minutes.
“My instinct is to go back in and try to help the team in whatever way I could,” Davis said. “I love the game. I want to play the game. … That's what a leader does.”