(16-15) -- (13-21)
Venue TV TIME Smoothie King Center, New Orleans, LA MSG 8:00 PM EST
New York Knicks New Orleans Pelicans Courtney Lee - Sore right wrist (QUEST) Quincy Pointdexter - Sprained knee (OUT) Maurice Ndour - Sprained right ankle (OUT) - - -
NEW ORLEANS -- The New Orleans Pelicans have spent most of the last seven weeks trying to atone for an 0-8 start, and could take another step up the ladder Friday night when they host the New York Knicks at the Smoothie King Center, capping a five-game homestand.
A victory over the Knicks (16-15) would give the Pelicans (13-21) four consecutive wins and a 4-1 record during the home stretch, which New Orleans coach Alvin Gentry described as critical in making up for their abysmal early-season play.
"I didn't know what to expect," Gentry said after practice Thursday following the Pelicans' 102-98 victory over the shorthanded L.A. Clippers on Wednesday night. "I just knew that this homestand was going to be very important, any way you look at it, for us to have any semblance of trying to work our way back in. When you start (0-8), and four of those games you lose are at home, you have to make them up on the road. ... I think we've done a pretty good job of starting to dig ourselves out."
The Pelicans have used a smaller starting lineup, with 6-foot-10 forward Anthony Davis starting at center, in their last two games, and figure to go small again despite the presence of the Knicks' 7-foot-3 center Kristaps Porzingis.
Davis averaged 24 points and 10 rebounds in the last two games -- slightly below his season averages -- but the Pelicans were able to hurt Dallas and Los Angeles with their running game. They held an enormous 29-2 edge in fast break points against the Clippers, and guards Jrue Holiday, Buddy Hield, Langston Galloway and Tyreke Evans combined to score 52 points on 21-of-42 shooting and dished out 14 assists.
One of the most encouraging signs was the play of Evans, who missed 11 months after undergoing knee surgery in early 2016. Evan played 16 minutes against the Clippers and looked decisive in his cuts to the basket, finishing with 12 points and five assists. He also made a pair of open 3-pointers, usually not his strong suit.
"It was good," Davis said of Evans. "He was getting back into the rhythm of things, and he made some big plays for us, some big threes. He made some right plays -- some great passes for our shooters. As he finds a way to get back into the rhythm of things and get his legs back, we're going to try to help him as much as possible."
The Knicks dropped consecutive games, the latest a 102-98 overtime loss on the road to the Atlanta Hawks on Wednesday night. They played short-handed most of the night because Carmelo Anthony was ejected just before halftime when he committed a Flagrant 2 Foul by swinging his forearm into the jaw of Thabo Sefolosha while battling for a rebound.
At practice Thursday in New Orleans, Knicks coach Jeff Hornacek defended Anthony by saying the contact did not merit a flagrant foul.
"I don't blame him for what happened, honestly," Hornacek said. "Watch the replay, watch the action. The guy had his arms wrapped around his neck. It's like: I want to sometimes go up to a referee and wrap my arms around their neck. What are you going to do? Just stand there or you going to get the guy off you? It's a natural reaction. You're not going let a guy grab you around your neck. It's inadvertent and a reaction."
Anthony issued a challenge to his teammates to stop the two-game losing streak with a victory over the Pelicans.
"It's a game we have to win," Anthony said after practice. "We have to go get it. I thought we gave ourselves a chance to win (against the Hawks). (Friday) is something we have to go get."
This will be the first of two meetings this season. Each team won on its home court last season. Anthony averaged 25.5 points and 9.0 rebounds for New York. Davis posted 36 points and 11 rebounds in a losing effort at Madison Square Garden but did not play in the second game in March while rehabbing a knee injury.