Pelicans Hope All-Star Davis Can Join Fray vs. Spurs

Over the past three seasons, the New Orleans Pelicans have been beset by more than their fair share of injuries, and while they have remained comparatively healthy this year, they continue to be stung by a series of nagging medical issues with their leading player, All-Star forward Anthony Davis.

Davis is officially listed as probable for Friday night's game against the San Antonio Spurs (36-9) at the Smoothie King Center, but the NBA's second-leading scorer has struggled since sustaining a deep right thigh bruise in a loss to Brooklyn on Jan. 20.

Davis sat out a 124-122 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Monday with the deep thigh contusion and then played only the first half of 114-105 home loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder on Wednesday night, scoring just eight points with five rebounds.

While Davis is averaging 28.1 points, 11.8 rebounds and 2.4 blocks per game overall for the 18-28 Pelicans, over his last four starts, those averages have shrunk to 16.8 points, 7.8 rebounds and 1.0 blocks. He has missed all or parts of seven of the Pelicans' last eight games, and the most concerning aspect of his OKC departure was that he did not appear to sustain a big hit before limping into the locker room.

"It's not good," said Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry. "It's tough. He wants to be out there, and he's trying to be out there. It would be easy just to sit out, but I think he's doing everything he can to be out there. If he's hurt, then he's hurt. But the fact that he starts the game and tries to see if he can play through it is all you can ask a player to do."

The Pelicans did not practice on Thursday, so it's anyone's guess if Davis will play, and, even if he does, how effective he will be against the Spurs.

"We feel like, with Anthony out, that the bulk of the scoring isn't there or it might go missing," said New Orleans point guard Jrue Holiday. "It has to come from somewhere (else)."

The Spurs, meanwhile, have won five straight, the most recent a 108-106 victory at Toronto on Tuesday in which they rallied from a late deficit.

In addition to their normal ball-sharing and defensive focus, the Spurs could get point guard Tony Parker back Friday night from lingering left foot soreness. Parker is listed as probable, but forward Kawhi Leonard is questionable with a sore left hand and reserve forward Jonathon Simmons is doubtful with a sprained ankle.

The Spurs have won the first two games of the season series with the Pelicans, beating New Orleans 98-79 behind Leonard's 20 points in their home opener on Oct. 29 and defeating the Pelicans 113-100, with LaMarcus Aldridge scoring 22 points and grabbing seven rebounds, during Tim Duncan's jersey retirement night on Dec. 18 at the AT&T Center.

The Spurs have won the last five meetings against New Orleans.

Despite losing Duncan, the future Hall of Famer, to retirement, the Spurs are fourth in the NBA in offensive rating, scoring 111.4 points per 100 possessions, and third in defensive efficiency, yielding 101.7 points per 100 possessions.

The Spurs' 36-9 record is their third-best in franchise history through 45 games. They were 38-7 in both 2010-11 and 2015-16. San Antonio also is 20-4 on the road. Spurs coach Gregg Popovich needs one more victory for 1,127 career wins, which would tie would tie him with Jerry Sloan for the most career wins with one NBA franchise.

Toronto coach Dwane Casey called Popovich the best coach in professional sports.

"That's very flattering but obviously untrue," Popovich said. "I've been around a long time, and we've won some games, and if you've forgotten, I got to coach Tim Duncan. That made me look pretty good."

Copyright © 2017 TTWN Media Networks Inc. Photo: Getty Images

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