Pelicans try to shake doldrums after loss to San Antonio
The New Orleans Pelicans are set to go from one extreme to the other.
After going against the more methodical and precise halfcourt San Antonio Spurs on Monday, the Pelicans take on the Atlanta Hawks on Wednesday night at New Orleans Arena.
The Pelicans faced a quick point guard in the Spurs’ Tony Parker, who sped around picks, drove to the rim and pulled up for short jump shots in scoring 32 points. Atlanta’s Jeff Teague also presents problems, but the Hawks like to fast break more than the Spurs.
“They get up and down the floor,” coach Monty Williams said. “Teague is a jet. He moves up and down the floor. (Paul) Millsap can score the ball. Kyle (Korver) is spacing the floor. So we’ve got our work cut out for us.”
The Hawks (25-22) are one of this season’s surprises in the NBA. They have the third best record in the Eastern Conference, behind the Indiana Pacers and Miami Heat, even though they lost starting center Al Horford to a torn right pectoral muscle on Dec. 28.
Atlanta, however, had bolstered its roster after allowing misfit power forward/small forward Josh Smith to walk in the offseason. Having made moves the past two years, the Hawks have a deep lineup of contributors.
Millsap, a 6-foot-9 former Louisiana Tech standout, took up slack left by Horford’s injury. He leads Atlanta in scoring at 17.7 points per game and has played so well, he was added as a reserve on the East All-Star. It’s his first All-Star nod.
Teague is averaging 16.2 points, and Korver — who has a made at least one 3-pointer in an NBA record 116 consecutive games — is at 12.2. Forward DeMarre Carroll, another offseason signee, is next at 10.2; guard Louis Williams averages 9.6 and forward Mike Scott 9.2.
Not to mention power forward Elton Brand, an aging former All-Star, and speedy rookie point guard Dennis Schroder.
“They have some veterans on their squad that are pretty good,” Williams said. “Elton Brand. They bring in a guy like that off the bench and sometimes start him. So even though they lost Horford, they were able to fill in with some experience.”
And put pressure on opponents’ defenses. Atlanta averages 103.1 points per game — and in its two most recent games, it beat the Philadelphia 76ers 125-99 on Jan. 31, then fought past rugged Minnesota 120-113, a game in which the Hawks outscored the Timberwolves 38-21 in the third quarter.
“Offensively, they are one of the best teams in the league,” said Pelicans guard Anthony Morrow, who played last season with Atlanta before being traded to Dallas.
“They share the ball and move the ball. They have great guard play, and they can go small with Williams, Teague and Schroder. Their bigs can make shots. They have a lot of skill guys.
“We’re going to have to come out and bog down defensively and dig deep and get a win.”
The Pelicans had won five of their past seven before San Antonio overpowered them with a 38-19 fourth quarter. They will look to bounce back.
That is particularly true of second-year power forward Anthony Davis.
Davis, who’s enjoying an All-Star-caliber season, had 17 points, 16 rebounds and four blocked shots, extending his franchise record of at least four blocks in a game to seven. However, after the game, he was noticeably displeased by his 6-of-21 shooting, blaming himself for the loss.
While experienced and skillful, the Hawks’ big men are not particularly tall or as athletic as the 6-foot-10 Davis. Rookie center Pero Antic, 6-11, is sidelined with a stress fracture in his left ankle.
Gustavo Ayon, 6-10, who played with New Orleans during the 2011-12 season, has replaced Antic.
Rebounding is where the Hawks have proven to be vulnerable.
But Atlanta had won five of its past seven games heading into Tuesday night at Indiana. And in the Hawks’ past 11 games, they have beaten Indiana, Houston, Miami and Minnesota on their way to winning seven.
However, all of the signature wins have come at home, and the Hawks are 9-14 on the road, including 1-7 against Western Conference teams.
Guard/forward Tyreke Evans is not expected to play Wednesday night after incurring a right rib injury during the first quarter of Monday’s game. It appeared the injury occurred when he was hit by San Antonio forward Matt Bonner. However, Williams said trainer Jon Ishop said it happened when Evans drove into the lane, turned suddenly and threw a pass.