Lewis: Pelicans should shut it down

Advocate staff photo by MATTHEW HINTONAnthony Davis, who will miss the rest of the season, joined a long injury list for Monty Williams’ Pelicans.
Advocate staff photo by MATTHEW HINTONAnthony Davis, who will miss the rest of the season, joined a long injury list for Monty Williams’ Pelicans.

Before anything else bad happens, maybe the New Orleans Pelicans should just shut it down. Now.

Not surprisingly, the team announced Thursday that Anthony Davis and Eric Gordon are done for the season, adding to an already too-lengthy list of MIAs.

How lengthy? The starting lineup in Wednesday’s 94-88 loss to Phoenix, the season’s 78th game, featured exactly one starter from the season’s first — forward Al-Farouq Aminu.

Who’s next? Will the surgically restructured Pierre break his beak again?

Most assuredly the Pels have no shot in their four remaining games — a back-to-back at Oklahoma City and Houston on Friday and Saturday followed by wrapping it up at home next week against those same two teams.

So find some excuse not to play ’em. Engine trouble. A power failure in the Smoothie King Center.

Surely the Thunder and Rockets, both anticipating long playoff runs, wouldn’t mind a few days off before that grind begins in addition to getting a couple of free victories when they’re still vying for seeding position.

And except for those wanting to see likely MVP Kevin Durant of the Thunder on Monday or hoping to grab some Fan Appreciation Night goodies at halftime of the Rockets game on Wednesday, how could anyone else really object?

Well, Tyreke Evans would.

“It’s tough,” Evans said Wednesday as he limped out of the SKC with his right calf wrapped in ice. “We’ve all been battling injuries the whole season.

“And these teams we’re going to go face, they’re really good and in the playoffs. But we’re still going to go out there and try to beat them.”

Which is all they can do.

No matter how badly beaten up you are, you aren’t allowed to forfeit in the NBA. Tank, yes. Forfeit, no.

And as down as they are, the Pels put up a fight against Phoenix.

After shooting 20.8 percent in the first quarter and matching a season low for the period with just 14 points, they battled back to take an 87-85 lead into the final three minutes, only to score just one point the rest of the way.

“I’ve nothing to complain about about our group,” Pelicans coach Monty Williams said. “We held that bunch to 94 points (11.7 below their season average) and we scratched and played the way we like to play.

“We just didn’t put the ball in the basket enough times.”

Phoenix coach Jeff Hornacek agreed.

“Some teams at this point of the season will just cash it in and go through the motions, but not those guys,” he said. “Monty will have them playing hard no matter what their situation.

“That’s why they gave themselves a chance to win the game tonight.”

They didn’t, though. And the Pelicans, who posted their first winning record for a full month since 2011 in March are headed toward going 0-for-April and finishing on 10-game losing streak without even a lottery pick to show for their misery (For those who believe in miracles there is a 0.60 percent of getting the No. 1 pick).

But that’s where this buzzard’s luck season has been trending since Ryan Anderson missed the first 10 games with a toe injury.

The injury situation has been pounded into the ground since then, but its impact can’t be overstated.

Want proof?

The Suns, a totally dysfunctional franchise a year ago and of which little was expected this season, are 47-31. With nine victories in its past 11 games, Phoenix is holding the eighth and final playoff berth in the incredibly rugged West with four games to go.

There are many reasons for the resurgence, but one is that the going into Wednesday’s game, Phoenix had seven players who have appeared in at least 70 games.

The Pelicans had two — Aminu and Anthony Morrow, who rank eighth and ninth respectively in scoring.

Small wonder the Pels are 2-24 against the current top eight teams in the West and they won’t even reach the 40-win total the oddsmakers had predicted for them.

There are a few positives to take from the last few games.

Rookie center Jeff Withey had a career-high 17 points on Wednesday and, as Williams pointed out, has physically improved leaps and bounds since the trade that also brought them Evans.

On a roster now down to 10 players, Withey, Darius Miller and Luke Babbitt are all getting extra playing time down the stretch.

As if there was a choice.

“You tell me,” Williams said Wednesday when asked who the night’s starting lineup would be.

Williams also talked about being glad to be home from a road trip because he could hug his wife and kids.

After the season he’s been through, he could certainly use one.