After completing a brutal schedule with six games in eight nights (four wins), the New Orleans Pelicans took advantage of a rare commodity on Monday -- sleep.
The Pelicans (43-31) will host the Portland Trail Blazers (45-28) on Tuesday night at the Smoothie King Center, and they will be doing it on two days' rest, something that coach Alvin Gentry said he appreciates after negotiating the scheduling gauntlet of the previous week.
New Orleans imploded Saturday night while looking exhausted and losing 114-91 at Houston, but that likely was the result of fatigue and low energy. Both losses in the six-game stretch were to the surging Rockets.
More pressing against Portland will be the health of point guard Rajon Rondo and forward Nikola Mirotic, who are listed as questionable.
Rondo, who sat out against Houston, has a sprained right wrist. Mirotic is dealing with a strained right hip flexor.
Gentry said he did not think either injury would be serious enough to cause an extended absence, but it's clear the Pelicans need Rondo's deft passing and floor generalship to get their offense back on track.
"He'll be fine," Gentry said. "We just have to kind of wait and see what it's going to be -- one game, maybe a couple games. Who knows?"
Mirotic also did not play against Houston, and he has had a history of success against Portland. He scored 18 points and grabbed 10 rebounds while playing against the Trail Blazers as a member of the Chicago Bulls. He sat out the game against Houston for "precautionary" reasons.
The Pelicans are in a wild playoff mix in the Western Conference, where a victory or loss by several teams can shuffle the playoff positions for the third through eighth seeds. After New Orleans' loss to Houston on Saturday, Gentry admitted that he was tired and so he realized how much his players needed to rest for the final eight games of the regular season.
The Pelicans have won four of the last five games against the Trail Blazers, including the last two -- a 123-116 win on Dec. 2 at Portland and a 119-113 victory on Jan. 12 in New Orleans.
New Orleans has a realistic shot to secure home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs, but much will rest on how they play against Portland, at Cleveland on Friday and back home against Oklahoma City on Easter Sunday.
The Pelicans have not had home court for a playoff series in 10 years, when the then-Hornets were a No. 2 seed. Since then, the Pelicans have never been higher than a No. 7 seed.
Behind guard C.J. McCollum's 34 points, Portland snapped a two-game losing streak with a contentious 108-105 victory over Oklahoma City on Sunday night. McCollum had 14 fourth-quarter points to key the victory, and the Trail Blazers won despite making just 9 of 34 from 3-point range.
Damian Lillard did not shoot well from outside but made all 11 free throws, and the Blazers' starting five supplied 100 of the team's 108 points.
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