Pelicans look to stop skid in matchup vs. Suns
The New Orleans Pelicans are getting some standout performances from individuals.
But it's not producing team success.
They'll try to end a five-game losing streak when they host the Phoenix Suns on Saturday night.
Point guard Elfrid Payton has had three consecutive triple doubles, finishing with 14 points, 12 rebounds a career-high 16 assists in a 122-110 home loss to Portland on Friday.
"I feel good," said Payton, who has played in just 31 games this season because of multiple injuries. "I think I have a good feel for where my teammates like the ball for the most part. It's just so unfortunate that I've missed so many games this year, so I'm just trying to finish strong.
"I think (the triple-doubles are) kind of special. It's just unfortunate that we didn't win, honestly. We didn't win any of those games."
Forward Julius Randle added a career-high 45 points and 11 rebounds, falling four assists short of what would have been his own triple-double against Portland. He also had a career-high for points in a quarter when he scored 21 as the Pelicans built a 37-30 lead after one period.
But he went scoreless in the second quarter, missing all six of his field-goal attempts and all four of his free throws as the lead shrunk to a point at halftime. Even though he bounced back to score 24 second-half points, New Orleans couldn't hold off the Trail Blazers.
"Obviously, we'd like to win these games," Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry said. "But I think that as long as we are playing as hard as we are, (I can't complain). It's hard to win a game when you're missing two guys that's averaging almost 50 points. I mean, let's just be real about it. But I love the way the guys are playing."
New Orleans will again be without injured starters Jrue Holiday (abdominal strain) and E'Twaun Moore (quad contusion), who are unlikely to return this season.
All-Star forward Anthony Davis sat out Friday's game but is expected to start against the Suns, continuing the trend of playing in just one game in back-to-back sets. But he'll likely play just 20-21 minutes, as has been the norm since he demanded a trade in late January.
The Suns are also completing a back-to-back, having lost at Houston 108-102 on Friday. Phoenix led for much of the game but lost the lead in the fourth quarter as James Harden finished with 41 points, 11 assists and nine rebounds.
"Great players make great plays," Suns coach Igor Kokoskov said of the Rockets. "It was their time to shine. They play with poise. They're gamers."
Despite the loss, it was a much better performance than the one Phoenix put on in a 114-97 home loss to Utah on Wednesday.
"We couldn't really close the game," Kokoskov said. "We lost the game in the last couple of minutes and the last couple of possessions.
"We'll regroup emotionally, mentally, physically. That's the good thing about the NBA -- you can focus on the next game."
Suns rookie 7-footer Deandre Ayton called his performance against Utah his "worst game" ever as he scored a career-low two points on 1-of-9 shooting in 33 minutes. He bounced back with 17 points and 14 rebounds against Houston.
The Pelicans have won the first two meetings, prevailing 119-99 last Nov. 10 in New Orleans and 130-116 on March 1 in Phoenix.
--Field Level Media
Updated March 16, 2019