Two down, one to go.
The New Orleans Pelicans are playing valiantly against stiff odds, not the least of which has been a crazy schedule that is forcing them to play three games on consecutive nights.
The Pelicans (42-30) showed remarkable grit Wednesday night by hanging on to defeat the Indiana Pacers 96-92 at the Smoothie King Center. They have now won the first two games of the tripleheader and have a third consecutive home game Thursday night against the Los Angeles Lakers (31-39).
Pelicans Hold Off Pacers 96-92
Anthony Davis led the Pelicans to a regular-season sweep of the Pacers, scoring 28 points on 9-of-14 shooting and grabbing 13 rebounds and blocking five shots in 35 minutes. Guard E'Twaun Moore scored 23 points on 10-of-15 shooting and forward Nikola Mirotic, who missed his first seven 3-point attempts against the Pacers, hit from long range on back-to-back possessions in the final four minutes.
The Pelicans are 15-5 this season in games decided by five or fewer points.
New Orleans committed 12 turnovers and guard Jrue Holiday, battling the flu, needed intravenous fluids at halftime. But Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry said he's trying to keep his players' minds off the scheduling marathon.
"We're just not talking about this -- four (games) in five nights or 12 in 14 nights or whatever -- we just got it on the schedule and you've got to play," Gentry said. "You're either going to play and do the very best you can or you make excuses, and we're not going to make excuses. The schedule says we're going to play last night, tonight and tomorrow night, so that's what we'll do, and we'll give them the very best we can and see what happens."
Moore said the third consecutive game against the Lakers will be "a mental battle" of mind over matter.
"We can't think about the tiredness," Moore said. "We just had faith and kept going and kept playing. I knew our guys were a little tired and Jrue was sick, so I needed to step up and make plays."
The victory kept the fifth-seeded Pelicans three games up on No. 9 Denver (39-33) in the Western Conference playoff race.
While the Pelicans were playing their second of three games on consecutive nights, the Lakers were relaxing with some downtown shopping. Los Angeles has lost three straight, and the Lakers will be without Brandon Ingram, who did not practice Wednesday while resting a sore groin.
Ingram, the Lakers' leading scorer (16.2 points per game), has been out since March 3. The Lakers went 4-2 in the first six games without Ingram in the lineup, but they have lost their last three.
The Pelicans have won four of the last five against the Lakers, including both games this year. In a Feb. 14 game at the Smoothie King Center, the Pelicans scored a season-high 139 points. Davis scored 31 of his game-high 42 points in the first half.
In the two games against New Orleans, the Lakers have been led by Kyle Kuzma, who has averaged 21.5 points on 51.5 percent shooting. Kuzma led the Lakers with 27 points in a 110-100 loss to Indiana on Monday night.
Lakers coach Luke Walton has encouraged rookie point guard Lonzo Ball to look more aggressively for his shot, even though he is shooting only 35.7 percent from the field and 31.5 percent from long range.
"I think I need to be more aggressive," Ball said. "At the same time, we have a lot of guys who can shoot the ball. Someone has to pass, so it's kind of my job to get everybody the ball, but I'd definitely like to score a little bit more."
The Lakers recalled forward Thomas Bryant from the G League, and he will be in uniform on Thursday night. Thomas averaged 19.6 points and 7.6 rebounds in the developmental league.
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