If there’s one thing we’ve learned during this New Orleans Pelicans current winning streak, there’s rarely been a dull moment.
The usual script over the last month has entailed the Pelicans fighting tooth and nail down the stretch for the victory, but fans experienced their hearts flutter tonight from a different yet all too familiar sight — Anthony Davis leaving a contest early due to injury.
Uh oh. Anthony Davis to the locker room. pic.twitter.com/O29OWvECBs— Dime on UPROXX (@DimeUPROXX) March 8, 2018
Although he stayed in the game for another possession, Davis quickly discovered he wouldn’t be able to play through his left ankle sprain so he fouled Bogdan Bogdanovic and immediately left for the locker room. A short while later, we learned the X-rays were negative and AD was questionable to return, but that never transpired.
After the game, Head Coach Alvin Gentry stated, “We won’t know anything until tomorrow. They took X-rays, but we couldn’t really tell a lot from the X-rays. We’ll go back home, and I’m sure he’ll have an MRI at some stage tomorrow.”
Jen Hale of Fox Sports New Orleans reported that Davis’ ankle was swelling significantly, but AD wasn’t too entirely concerned, proclaiming himself in postgame to be fine going forward.
"I feel fine but I'm going to have the team doctor take a look at it" Anthony Davis on his ankle injury. pic.twitter.com/42RtAqMMYq— FOXSports NewOrleans (@FOXSportsNOLA) March 8, 2018
When Davis departed, the Pelicans were leading by an 81-61 margin and looked to be in firm control. Of course, that feeling didn’t last for very long. The Kings closed the gap to 11 points with about eight minutes remaining and then hung around the rest of the way to make everyone feel uncomfortable enough that the game could go down to the wire.
Fortunately, it didn’t and Jrue Holiday and Nikola Mirotic were a big reason why. They both stepped up to the plate and closed the game out on fire, knocking down two key jumpers apiece over a two-minute span to preserve the 114-101 victory. Wednesday’s win not only solidified the team’s fourth position in the Western Conference standings but marked the third time in franchise history that the organization has won ten straight games.
Before Davis was forced from the game, balance was the theme of the night. In the first half, all nine New Orleans players who had entered the game scored. The starters output of 31 points was matched by the reserves 31 points. And the Pelicans two leading scorers at halftime were Mirotic (13 points) and Ian Clark (11 points).
Things continued to go smoothly in the second half, with Davis’ 10 points in the third quarter leading the charge. He knocked down a couple of three-pointers in the frame, but it was his defensive effort that had everyone a buzz.
That’s pure nasty, so it’s a real shame AD’s performance was cut short due to injury. Nevertheless, other players stepped up nicely in his absence. Mirotic finished with 26 points, 10 rebounds and four threes, while Holiday contributed 23 points, eight assists and three steals. Rajon Rondo added six points, four rebounds and seven assists, and E’Twaun Moore had it going with 15 points, six rebounds and three assists.
Following the game, Alvin Gentry emphasized the Pelicans need to do a better job of keeping their focus throughout the game.
“We have to play against ourselves, not really play against the other team, but we have to play against ourselves. If we’re going to do that, we’ve got to execute, we’ve got to rebound, and we’ve got to stay focused on defensive assignments.”
He’s right. Throughout the Pelicans 10-game winning streak, they haven’t been as consistent as they need to be, often letting opponents right back into games with opportunities to steal the win. With eight of the next twelve games coming against teams inside the playoff bubble, New Orleans is going to need to sharpen their execution.
Up next, the Pelicans return to New Orleans to kick off a three-game homestand, starting with the Washington Wizards on Friday. Keep your fingers crossed that Anthony Davis’ ankle doesn’t swell to the point of keeping him out of the Wizards matchup in two days time. Not only would it be fantastic to watch the Pelicans set a new franchise record for wins in a row, it would be soothing to keep the pressure on the rest of the competition in the Western Conference.