Mavs send New Orleans to fifth consecutive loss
DALLAS — Appearing completely overmatched, the New Orleans Pelicans slogged to their fifth consecutive loss, an ugly 108-89 demolition at the hands of the Dallas Mavericks on Wednesday night at American Airlines Center.
But that wasn’t the bad news.
The major blow was the latest addition to the team’s already crowded injury list — the biggest name of all, Anthony Davis.
The 6-foot-10 emerging superstar forward spent the second half on the bench with his left arm in a sling after suffering a shoulder injury in the second quarter.
Davis, the Pelicans’ leading scorer and rebounder and unquestioned centerpiece, grabbed his left shoulder after trying to follow his own miss with about five minutes left in the quarter. He came out during a timeout with 4:13 left and did not return.
Coach Monty Williams said the extent of Davis’ injury won’t be known until he undergoes tests Thursday. Davis declined to speak to the media after the game.
“We don’t know what’s wrong with him yet,” Williams said. “It could be nothing. It could be a day-to-day thing. We’ve got to let the doctors do their deal.
“He plays at such a high level, and he takes a beating when he goes to the basket. He’s bound to have some bumps and bruises.”
The question is whether this is more than a bump or bruise. If it is, it becomes the latest such setback for the Pelicans (23-34), who are already playing without No. 2 scorer Ryan Anderson (herniated disk), point guard Jrue Holiday (right leg stress fracture) and center Jason Smith (knee).
Williams said an extended injury to Davis could even signal a change in focus for the season. Before the game, Williams admitted the Pelicans, who are 10 games behind Phoenix for the Western Conference’s eighth and final playoff spot, are quickly approaching a point at which they are best served by playing for the future — trying different combinations to get a look at little-used young players. But, he said, “I just haven’t gotten to that point yet. It just ... I start itching just even thinking about that, man. ... My mind is just on trying to win games.”
After the game, though, the coach said Davis’ absence would “absolutely” accelerate that timetable.
“But,” he pointed out, “we don’t know that yet. We’ll make that assessment if we need to.”
At times in the second half, it seemed that assessment had been made, as reserves Jeff Withey, Darius Miller, Luke Babbitt and Austin Rivers all received major minutes after halftime.
Not coincidentally, New Orleans let a close game devolve quickly into a rout. The Pelicans led by three at 36-33 when Davis was injured.
By halftime they trailed by six, and a 15-2 Dallas run early in the fourth quarter — fueled by a large chunk of the Pelicans’ 19 turnovers — put the Mavericks up 93-71 with 6:43 to go.
Twelve of those turnovers came in the second half, negating what in many ways was a strong offensive performance. New Orleans shot 50.7 percent, made nine of 20 3-point attempts and outrebounded the Mavericks 40-34.
“We beat ourselves tonight,” said guard Eric Gordon, who led the Pelicans with 19 points on 7-of-11 shooting but turned the ball over five times. “We shot the ball well. We beat ourselves with turnovers. We just have to make the right decisions.”
That, Williams said, was the problem.
“Guys are trying to make plays,” he said. “But sometimes they’re trying to make plays that just aren’t there.”
One of those guys was Tyreke Evans, whose offensive struggles continued. The 6-6 guard found lanes to the basket, but managed to make only two of nine shots and finished with four points. In his past four games, Evans is 11 for 43 — a frigid 25.6 percent.
“It’s been frustrating,” he said. “I’ve just got to find a way to figure it out. I feel like I’m rushing things because I’m coming off the bench trying to be instant offense.”
Evans’ game is pentration, but he said defenders have been collapsing into the lane to contest his shots. One way to counteract that, he said, is to penetrate and pass — he had a team-high seven assists Wednesday — but he also knows he has to keep shooting.
“There are a lot of people trying to contest the shots, so I just try to keep being aggressive and do what I do,” he said. “It feels like there are three guys there every time. That’s why I’ve been finding my teammates. But I’ve still got to be aggressive.”
The same goes for the team as it battles its growing losing streak, Evans said, especially if Davis is out for awhile.
“We can’t be down,” Evans said. “He’s our guy, but we’ve got to find a way to keep playing. I thought we kind of stopped playing a little bit tonight. We turned it over and got frustrated. We’ve got to play 48 minutes.
“It’s just part of basketball. He got hurt and he’s out, so we’ve got to play harder.”