Pelicans depart for California road trip with Anthony Davis status uncertain

by Jim Eichenhofer
@Jim_Eichenhofer

LOS ANGELES – After it was clear Friday night that they’d be without the team’s best player vs. Indiana, New Orleans veteran center Kendrick Perkins advised teammates not to attempt to overcompensate. “Perk said the key is not to do more, but to rely on each other more,” forward Dante Cunningham noted after Saturday’s practice.

The 13-year pro’s words of wisdom may need to be heeded immediately, because it’s not certain whether two-time All-Star forward Anthony Davis will be able to play Sunday afternoon against the Clippers. Davis sustained a back contusion just 3:21 into Friday’s 91-86 defeat, after diving into the second row of seats and falling hard. He was removed from the game, after grimacing and holding his lower back, and did not return. Davis did not participate in Saturday’s practice and is being listed as questionable to play Sunday.

“We'll just see how he feels,” Pelicans Coach Alvin Gentry said. “He fell really hard and hit on a piece of a chair that got him pretty good, really.”

The NBA’s 11th-leading scorer – his two-point Friday dropped him two spots on the list – has appeared in 32 of New Orleans’ 35 games this season, with the Pelicans going 0-3 when he does not play (road losses to Atlanta, Toronto and Oklahoma City). That represents a downturn from 2014-15, when New Orleans managed to go 6-8 when Davis was sidelined, including a four-game winning streak.

Here’s a look ahead at the Pelicans’ three-game road trip, which began today with a cross-country flight to California, the home state of Ryan Anderson, Jrue Holiday and Quincy Pondexter:

Sunday at Los Angeles Clippers (23-13), 2:30 p.m. Central (Fox Sports New Orleans, WRNO 99.5 FM)

The Clippers are showing no drop-off since All-Star forward Blake Griffin was sidelined by injury, winning all six games they’d played without him entering Saturday’s home matinee vs. Charlotte. Among those victories was a 95-89 decision at the Smoothie King Center on New Year’s Eve that came down to the final two minutes. Los Angeles has administered several one-sided defeats to New Orleans at Staples Center in recent years, including a 111-90 final the night after Thanksgiving. The Clippers can already clinch the head-to-head series with the Pelicans on Sunday, with one more matchup remaining (March 20 at NOLA).

Tuesday at Los Angeles Lakers (8-30), 9:30 p.m. Central (Fox Sports New Orleans, WRNO 99.5 FM)

One welcomed aspect of the NBA’s schedule improvements in 2015-16 has been that more teams are visiting the Clippers and Lakers in consecutive games (as well as the Knicks and Nets during trips to New York City). The Pelicans will have the rare opportunity to stay in the same city for four days, including having a chance to practice Monday in L.A. The Lakers own the worst record in the Western Conference, but have been more competitive lately, including a recent three-game win streak and tight losses to Sacramento and Oklahoma City. This is the Pelicans’ only game this season on the Lakers’ court; Kobe Bryant will make the final two visits of his NBA career to the Crescent City on Feb. 4 and April 8.

Wednesday at Sacramento Kings (15-21), 9 p.m. Central (Fox Sports New Orleans, WRNO 99.5 FM)

When you’re four games out of eighth place like New Orleans (11-24) is entering Saturday, every game is significant, but a case can be made that this is the “most important” stop on the Pelicans’ road trek, because the Kings are one of the teams just ahead of them in the standings. Among the large group of teams that are chasing eighth-place Utah (15-20), the Kings are the only squad that has played .500 basketball over its last 10 games. Sacramento center DeMarcus Cousins has been on a tear lately, averaging 32.3 points and 13.8 rebounds over his last four games.

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