Pelicans Come Away With Convincing 90-75 Win Over Visiting Phoenix Suns
The New Orleans Pelicans, clinging to the final Western Conference playoff berth, knocked down the Phoenix Suns Friday night in a 90-75 win at the Smoothie King Center.
New Orleans (43-36) remains in a neck-and-neck race with the Oklahoma City Thunder for the eighth and final Western Conference playoff slot. The teams have identical win-loss records (the Thunder beat the woeful Sacramento Kings on Friday night), but New Orleans took the season series over OKC three games to one, giving the Pels the tiebreaker.
Friday night’s game started off sluggishly for the Pelicans, who still seemed hungover after their win over the league-leading Golden State Warriors Tuesday night. On Wednesday the Pelicans traveled to Memphis and were handed their worst loss of the season.
Resident superstar Anthony Davis, who scored 13 points in the first quarter, was on the receiving end of a Earl Barron hard elbow at the start of the second. Davis took the elbow to his throat and immediately walked off the court and into the locker room.
“I was concerned when he didn’t come back, because the play happened so fast,” said Pelicans head coach Monty Williams in his postgame press conference. “I saw him walk off the floor and… if you haven’t had that happen to you before you don’t realize how scary that is. The doctors kind of held him out just to have a specialist come in and look at it.”
The Pelicans sagged without Davis, shooting just 9-of-22 in the second and letting the Suns climb back within six points at the half. Ryan Anderson replaced Davis in the starting lineup in the third quarter, but he has struggled since returning from a right knee injury that kept him off the hardwood for over a month. He made just one bucket — a three-pointer — in 18:26 on the floor.
As the teams readied themselves to retake the court to start the fourth quarter, a raucous din rose up from the crowd. Davis strode out of the players’ tunnel, and right back into the lineup.
Davis had suffered a throat contusion and couldn’t speak, but he didn’t need to. Davis directed the activity on the floor like a pro far more seasoned than his three years in the league, boxing out defenders, collecting six rebounds, scoring six points, stealing a pass, and shutting the Suns down.
“When one guy goes down the next guy has to be ready to step up,” said point guard Norris Cole. “Collectively tonight, we had each other’s back.”
At the 1:20 mark Davis banged home an alley-oop dunk off a dish from Quincy Pondexter (3 pts., 5 rebounds and an assist), drawing a foul and a reverberating chant of “MVP! MVP!” from the sellout crowd.
The score: 90-71. Williams sat his starters, the Suns managed to score four more points, and that was it.
The Pelicans will play the Houston Rockets on Sunday and the Minnesota Timberwolves on Monday, then return home to play the San Antonio Spurs in the final game of the regular season on April 15.
Omer Asik collected 18 rebounds in 22 minutes, a season-high for him. His career single-game record is 23.
Eric Gordon set a career season three-point record with 132. He sank 131 threes in his rookie year.
Friday night saw the return of guard Jrue Holiday, who had been out since Jan. 12 with a leg injury. Holiday’s less-than-impressive stat line (2 points, 5 assists) belied his energy on the court. “I didn’t surprise myself. I think I was just a little bit too excited,” he said after the game. “Obviously recovery is going to be a big thing, especially for tomorrow. I’ll see how it (the injury) reacts to the game tonight. But I guess we’ll just go from there and see what happens.”
This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:
The Phoenix Suns were eliminated from playoff contention earlier this week by the Dallas Mavericks, not by the Pelicans.