After two close losses on the road, the New Orleans Pelicans hope a taste of home will turn things around when they return to the Smoothie King Center on Monday night to host the Los Angeles Clippers.
In a game that features a battle between All-Star power forwards Anthony Davis and Blake Griffin, the key may be how New Orleans point guard Brian Roberts fares against Los Angeles All-Star Chris Paul.
“That was kind of the challenge for me mentally being a starter, going against the best every night,” said Roberts, who has started the past 21 games in place of the injured Jrue Holiday. “Once I got past that and just went out and competed against those guys and had some success, that has given me the confidence to go out and play my game.”
Before their win Sunday at Oklahoma City, the Clippers (37-20) lost their first two games after the All-Star break — against San Antonio and at Memphis, two tough playoff teams. Los Angeles had won three in a row heading into the break, the latter two after Paul returned from a right shoulder injury.
New Orleans (23-32) has lost three in a row and five of six. And after Monday’s game, the Pelicans start a five-game road trip, all against Western Conference teams.
So a win here is crucial.
Roberts, who is averaging 8.7 points for the season, has for the most part played solidly as a starter, scoring 12.6 points per game in that role. In the seven games before Saturday night’s loss at Washington, he averaged 16.0. But before that stretch, he scored just nine points against the Spurs’ Tony Parker, who blitzed the Pelicans for 32 points Feb. 3.
Then, on Saturday against Wizards All-Star John Wall, Roberts scored just seven points on 2-of-13 shooting, although he did have nine assists. Wall scored just 10 but had 12 assists, including on the winning basket: He penetrated the lane against Roberts, then passed to Nene for a dunk with 0.3 seconds remaining.
The night before, at Charlotte, Roberts torched the Bobcats and point guard Kemba Walker for a career-high 20 points.
In the first meeting against the Clippers, on Dec. 18 in Los Angeles, Roberts was benched by coach Monty Williams. He has come a long way since.
“At that time, I wasn’t playing as well as I knew I could and he knew I could,” Roberts said. “All I could control was how hard I work and just getting extra stuff in at practice. I think I’m now producing at a pretty good clip.”
Davis, who replaced Griffin on the 2012 Olympic team after he injured a knee, has averaged just 17.2 points and 1.25 blocks in his past four games, although he is posting 10.6 rebounds in that stretch. He averages 20.4 points and 10.2 rebounds and leads the NBA in blocks at 3.06.
Griffin has been on a roll. Heading into Sunday, he had a stretch of seven games starting Feb. 3 at Denver in which he averaged 34.3 points and 11.4 rebounds.
Paul missed 18 games — from Jan. 4 to Feb. 7 — with the shoulder injury. The Clippers went 12-6 in those games with Darren Collison manning point guard.
Paul was on the bench near the end of last Sunday’s All-Star Game with his shoulder wrapped in ice. Then, he sprained his right thumb against Memphis on Friday when he reached in to get a steal from Zach Randolph.
Davis, Clippers working toward deal
The Los Angeles Times reported Sunday that forward Glen Davis, the former LSU and University High standout, plans to sign with the Clippers.
Coach Doc Rivers said the deal wasn’t official yet, but “hopefully it will be.”
Orlando bought out Davis’ contract Friday, and he cleared waivers Sunday. Late Sunday night, it was unclear whether Davis would join the team in time for Monday night’s game.
Another family affair
Pelicans guard Austin Rivers will be going against his father, Clippers coach Doc, for the second time this season and fourth time in his career.
He scored just two points on 1-of-4 shooting against the Clippers on Dec. 18.