NEW ORLEANS — Friday night could have been disastrous for the Pelicans.
Already down five of their top seven scorers, number six went out less than four minutes into the game against Utah.
Number six would be roster No. 23, leading scorer and game-changing forward Anthony Davis, who left the game with a left ankle injury.
And yet, as has happened a lot during New Orleans’ red hot March, others stepped up.
Tyreke Evans finished with 22 points, a career-high 15 assists and five rebounds, Anthony Morrow added 20 points and Al-Farouq Aminu and Alexis Ajinca made up for Davis’ inside presence with 18 combined rebounds.
The result was New Orleans’ season-best fifth straight win, a 102-95 victory over Utah. It’s New Orleans’ longest win streak since winning 10 straight in the 2010-11 season.
“I woulda never even thought about that,” Pelicans coach Monty Williams said. “It’s great. I don’t take it for granted. It’s a blessing to have all that.”
Since New Orleans began its streak of nine wins in 12 games on March 4, Davis had been average 29.9 points and 13.5 rebounds per game. Davis’ status for Saturday night’s game at San Antonio wasn’t known shortly after the game as he was still getting tests down, Williams said.
Without him, the Pelicans (32-40) lacked size and athleticism in the paint. But Ajinca, who finished with nine points and 10 rebounds, and Aminu, who had 13 points and eight rebounds, did their best to offset the loss.
Though Utah (23-50) got 18 points and 11 rebounds from Derrick Favors, the Pelicans still outrebounded the Jazz by six. And New Orleans’ 40 points in the paint all but balanced out Utah’s 44.
“I think there’s more of a sense of urgency, not just me and Tyreke but everybody,” Morrow said. “Everybody wants to step up, kind of fill that void in any way we needed to because he does so many great things for us on both ends of the floor.”
The big difference came with how poorly Utah took care of the ball and how well New Orleans was able to take advantage.
New Orleans picked up 33 points on 19 Jazz turnovers.
Even without a bevy of starters and key players, Williams is figuring out how to put his players in the right position to win.
“I’ve always had confidence in our guys,” Williams said. “You have to as a coach. That doesn’t mean it’s always going to work out. You certainly have more confidence with certain groups on the floor. That’s where I’m growing.”