Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins have provided plenty of fireworks but no winning chemistry for the New Orleans Pelicans in their first three games together since a blockbuster trade moved Cousins from Sacramento.
The NBA's newest version of the Twin Towers gets a fourth chance for a breakthrough win on Friday night at the Smoothie King Center, but it will be a very tall order because the 24-37 Pelicans will host the 46-13 San Antonio Spurs, the team with the second-best record in the NBA, in a nationally televised game.
The Pelicans have lost two of three to the Spurs this season, but in their most recent contest on Jan. 27, New Orleans spanked San Antonio 119-103. The Spurs had entered the game having won five straight, but San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich waved the white flag and emptied his bench with 3:34 left.
"We just ran out of gas," Popovich said.
Jrue Holiday led the Pelicans with 23 points and had 11 assists, and Davis scored 16 points and grabbed 22 rebounds, tying his career high on the boards. The Pelicans would love nothing more than to have Holiday repeat that performance. Holiday broke out of a mini-slump on Wednesday night with 22 points in a 109-86 victory over the Detroit Pistons.
"I'm still excited (about the Cousins trade), but I don't think we're as good as we've shown," Holiday said Thursday after practice. "We've added DeMarcus and seen bits and pieces of him and AD getting 30 and nobody else helping them out. When we put a whole game together, it'll be a lot more fun."
In his three games as a Pelican, Cousins has averaged 23.3 points and 12.7 rebounds, but he's also picked up 14 fouls, some of them early in games to limit his effectiveness. Cousins sat out the victory over Detroit on Wednesday while serving a one-game suspension for having picked up his 18th technical foul of the season in the previous game.
On Thursday, the Pelicans scrimmaged "a little more than we do on regular practice days to find out what will work best in essentially a double-post offense," said coach Alvin Gentry.
"We're just trying to get (Cousins) and everybody else into a flow where we're beginning to understand where guys want the ball or where guys are going to be in certain situations," Gentry said. "That's the biggest thing -- putting them out there and letting them play."
Davis has averaged 31.4 points on 50 percent shooting and 10.2 rebounds over his last five games, and he had 33 points in the victory over Detroit.
Holiday said he hopes to get both big men going and have a good game himself. Once the offense starts to click, Holiday believes Davis will really benefit from having more space to operate.
"I think he'll get a lot more shots because you really can't double-team him," Holiday said. "If you do it with a guard, it's a mismatch. He's playing against fours now, and fours can't handle him in the perimeter or in the post."
The Spurs are coming off a challenging 100-99 home victory against the Indiana Pacers in a game which had its share of controversy down the stretch.
Kawhi Leonard hit the game-winning, fallaway jumper over Paul George with 2.4 seconds left, but the NBA admitted Thursday that the shot should not have counted because officials missed a traveling call against Leonard before the shot. Leonard led the Spurs with 31 points on 11-of-22 shooting.
"He does that every night," Popovich said.
Leonard has averaged 18.7 points and 4.0 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 1.3 steals in three games against New Orleans, while forward LaMarcus Aldridge has averaged 16.0 points and 8.7 rebounds.
Rookie point guard Dejounte Murray started in place of Tony Parker (quad contusion) against the Pacers and played well down the stretch, contributing four assists and three points in the fourth quarter.
"He didn't start that well, but he hung in there and made some big plays," San Antonio guard Manu Ginobili said The Spurs have won five of the last six games against New Orleans.
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