After an inconsistent performance led to their second loss to a playoff contender in as many nights, the New Orleans Pelicans will end their pre-All-Star break schedule with a much easier opponent.
They'll try to secure a road victory Wednesday night over the injury-riddled Milwaukee Bucks, against whom they've won 12 of 14.
The Pelicans (22-29), who will host this weekend's All-Star festivities, closed out a 7-3 stretch Friday but have since dropped two in a row. They lost 93-81 at Brooklyn on Sunday after getting outscored 51-28 in the first half, and their starters struggled in a 108-101 defeat at Toronto on Monday, with their Raptors counterparts holding an 86-52 scoring edge.
New Orleans' reserves outscored Toronto's 49-22, with Tyreke Evans recording 23 points and 10 assists after sitting out Sunday due to what coach Monty Williams called "internal issues."
Anthony Davis led the Pelicans starters with 19 points - below his season average of 20.7. He had scored at least 24 in each of his previous three games.
"We didn't get a lot of production from the starting group on both ends of the floor," Williams said.
That's been the case for much of the season, as the Pelicans' 65.1 points per game from their starters ranks in the lower third of the league. Their 34.5 bench scoring average is among the top 10.
New Orleans erased a 15-point first-half deficit to tie the Raptors at halftime but couldn't maintain that level of play in the second half, falling behind by 18.
"If you look at the box scores from those quarters, it was just a hole that we dug," Williams said of the first and third periods, when the Pelicans were outscored 64-41.
Sparked by Evans' eight fourth-quarter points, New Orleans again came back, cutting the lead to four.
"I just liked that our guys didn't give in," Williams told the team's website.
Knocking off the Bucks (9-42), losers of 18 of 20, likely won't prove as challenging, especially given their injury situation.
Larry Sanders was diagnosed with a fractured right orbital bone after taking an elbow from James Harden in Saturday's loss to Houston. He won't return until after the break.
John Henson could also be out after leaving Monday's 102-86 loss to Boston with a foot injury. The Bucks, already without Ersan Ilyasova and Caron Butler, trailed by two at the start of the fourth quarter but were done in by a 12-4 run.
O.J. Mayo also sat due to an illness.
"We went flat," said point guard Brandon Knight, who scored 22. "Our energy went down and they took advantage of that."
A loss Wednesday would make the Bucks the fifth team since 2000-01 to be eliminated from their division race prior to the All-Star break.
Davis shot 10 for 13 and had 28 points and 10 rebounds in his only career game against Milwaukee, a 117-113 Pelicans loss at the Bradley Center on Nov. 17, 2012.
The Associated Press News Service
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