Stop me if you’ve heard this before: Anthony Davis is attempting to give it a go after sustaining an injury. This time, it’s a wrist contusion Davis will be gutting out, an injury that knocked him out of Wednesday night’s loss to the Toronto Raptors.
Before the DeMarcus Cousins trade, the “Davis attempting to gut out injury” storyline felt like the Pelicans would be playing with one hand tied behind their back. Having a talent like Cousins relieves Davis of having to be a superhero, battling whatever twinges of pain that remain.
Now the Pelicans head east to Charlotte to play the Hornets and Kemba Walker. At one point in the year the Hornets were sitting comfortably in the Eastern Conference Playoff picture. However, they have faded of late, dropping 15 of their last 20 and have fallen all the way down to 10th in the East.
The Hornets give me a “they should be better but I can’t figure out why they aren’t” vibe. Looking at the roster, there’s some talent in Charlotte. Maybe not at superstar levels but there are pieces that could find a niche on contending teams. For whatever reason, though, it all fell apart for the Hornets towards the end of January.
Perhaps the reason for their losses compounding so much lately is nothing more than a rough patch of the schedule. Of those 15 losses, two came to the Warriors and Clippers; then there were losses to the Rockets, Raptors, Wizards, Jazz and the Heat sprinkled in. That’s nine losses to teams that are playing some of the best basketball in the entire NBA.
Charlotte is sitting in the same boat as the Pelicans — not completely out of the playoff picture but drifting closer and closer to the lottery as the regular season comes to a close. The Hornets are only three back of the Bulls for the 8-seed in the East. If a late playoff push is in the cards, they’ll need to get healthier. Frank Kaminsky will be out another week or so with a AC sprain in his shoulder; Miles Plumlee hasn’t dressed since mid-February with a calf strain, and Ramon Sessions is still out after undergoing surgery to repair a torn meniscus.
The absence of three key contributors has increased the burden on Kemba Walker, but he’s continued to play like he has all season long: like an All-Star. Playing the best basketball of his young career, Walker has career highs in points, assists, field goal percentage, three point percentage and from the free throw line. Not shockingly, his offensive rating and true shooting percentages are also at career high levels and his 28.9 assist percentage is the best its been since the 2013-14 season. We’ve witnessed Walker carry UConn to a national championship and this year’s been the closest thing we’ve seen since he led his Huskies to a title.
It hasn’t been just Walker doing good work for Charlotte this season as Nicolas Batum is averaging 15 points a game and Kaminsky and Marvin Williams are each averaging 11. Marco Belinelli is the Hornets’ leading bench scorer with 10 points a night.
This is a matchup between two teams facing a similar set of circumstances to close out the season: both are not playing good basketball as of late, but neither are so far removed from the playoff picture that the postseason is impossible. Something will have to give Saturday night in Charlotte.
Maybe it’ll go in the Pelicans’ favor. Geaux Pelicans!!!
What: Pelicans at Hornets
Where: Spectrum Center — Charlotte, NC
When: March 12, 2017 at 6:00 PM Central
How: Fox Sports New Orleans, Fox Sports Southeast, 99.5 FM WRNO