Pelicans seek strong start in home stretch

Coming off a one-week All-Star break rest, the New Orleans Pelicans have plenty incentive to burst from the gate with a victory against the New York Knicks on Wednesday night at Smoothie King Center.

First, this will be just one of two home games the Pelicans (23-29) will play in the next nine games overall. Second, after the Knicks (20-32), the Pelicans play back-to-back games at Charlotte on Friday and at Washington on Saturday.

And, a win against New York would represent a hat trick of sorts. When the Pelicans beat the Knicks 103-99 on Dec. 1, it was the second of a three-game sweep of Eastern Conference teams. New Orleans has swept the season series against the other two — the Philadelphia 76ers and Chicago Bulls.

Most important, it would continue the momentum the Pelicans had before the All-Star break, when they won six of 10.

“We have to focus game by game and see what we’re made of,” said guard Eric Gordon as the Pelicans start an end of the season stretch in which they will play 30 games in 57 days. “We have to do what we can and see how we finish.”

The Knicks head into the Center on the second of back-to-back road games, having played at Milwaukee on Tuesday night. New York went into the break having lost five of six games, including to Sacramento and woeful Milwaukee, both at home.

The Knicks have been wildly inconsistent, with four- and and five-game winning streaks, followed by losing streaks of the same. The firing of coach Mike Woodson has been expected for weeks.

Along with that has been speculation that All-Star forward Carmelo Anthony may be traded by Thursday’s deadline. Anthony could opt out of his contract at season’s end, and the Bulls are said to be the main suitors. The Knicks would like to get something in return rather than let him leave without getting compensation.

The Pelicans are 14-7 against Eastern Conference teams this season, including 7-2 at home. However, this is a different Pelicans team from the one that won in New York. Injuries have made for a new-look team that had jelled in the weeks before the break.

The Pelicans worked hard in practice the past two days to get that continuity back. Continuing to mesh is a big goal for the second half, guard Anthony Morrow said.

“The things we had struggles with in the first half of the season in terms of execution, we’re getting better at it, but we have to buckle down and make sure we pay more attention to detail,” he said. “And, defensively, (we need) to grow and get better.”

Note

All-Star power forward Anthony Davis broke the bone leading to the pinky on his left hand in the first game at New York. Davis went up to catch a lob and hit the hand on the rim. He had 23 points before leaving early in the fourth quarter. … Forward Ryan Anderson, who is out with two herniated discs, scored 31 points in the first game, and guard/forward Tyreke Evans had 24. The Pelicans outscored the Knicks 48-30 in the lane and 19-6 in fast-break points. The loss was the Knicks’ ninth in a row and seventh in a row at home. … Knicks power forward/center Andrea Bargnani is out with a torn ligament in his left elbow. He had 17 points, seven rebounds and six blocked shots in the first meeting.