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Celtics-Pelicans Preview

By TAYLOR BECHTOLD

STATS Writer

(AP) -- Although Anthony Davis has continued his outstanding play, the New Orleans Pelicans haven't been able to hold late leads in the previous two games on their homestand.

They're hoping to wrap things up much earlier against the Boston Celtics, who haven't beaten a Western Conference club on the road all season.

New Orleans seeks its fifth straight win over struggling Boston and ninth in its last 11 home games against East opponents Sunday night.

Following an eight-game losing streak, the Pelicans (26-39) had won three straight before coming up short down the stretch in consecutive defeats. They were outscored 9-0 in the final 3:22 of Wednesday's 90-88 loss to Memphis before blowing a three-point lead with under five minutes remaining in a 111-103 setback versus Portland on Friday.

Now they'll try to move above .500 on the six-game stay with a win over the Celtics (22-44) before hosting Atlantic Division-leading Toronto in Wednesday's finale.

Though New Orleans is likely headed to the draft lottery for a third straight season, it appears to have a player to build around in Davis. The All-Star forward has taken his game to another level of late, averaging 30.8 points and 13.0 rebounds over his last five.

On Friday, Davis finished with a career-high 36 points while making 15 of 27 shots. He reached the 30-point mark for the sixth time and tied the franchise record by posting his fifth straight game with at least 28 points.

"I didn't care about that," Davis said. "I only care about winning. We just didn't get the stops. I missed some shots. They (Portland) made some shots. We just have to defend."

That's been an area of concern for the Pelicans, who have allowed an average of 108.8 points - 6.8 above their season average - over their last 10 games. However, they limited Boston to a 34.8 field-goal percentage while Davis scored 23 in a 95-92 road win Jan. 3.

The Celtics aren't playing well offensively heading into this meeting, either. They've scored 85.0 per game with a 35.7 field-goal percentage - including 23.3 percent from 3-point range - over a three-game losing streak.

Boston shot a season-worst 30.9 percent and missed 18 of 21 from beyond the arc in Friday's 87-80 home loss to Phoenix. Kris Humphries had 11 points, 13 rebounds and one thrown towel when the Celtics collapsed after tying the contest 80-all with 2:02 left.

"He's upset because we lost and he certainly has got a right to be," said coach Brad Stevens, whose club has dropped 10 of 13. "That was not a good ending. It was not a good performance."

Avery Bradley added nine points in his return from a 13-game absence due to a right ankle injury. He scored 22 in the January loss to New Orleans.

The Celtics have dropped 18 straight road games versus West teams by an average of 11.2 points dating to last season. The drought includes an 87-86 loss in the most recent meeting in New Orleans, when Davis won it on a last-second tip-in March 20.

Boston's Rajon Rondo has missed the past two meetings while recovering from surgery on a torn ACL. He's still trying to regain his All-Star form after totaling 16 points and 13 assists while missing 22 of 30 shots in his last two games.

New Orleans guards Tyreke Evans and Eric Gordon returned Friday after missing one game because of illness. Evans has averaged 22.4 points over his last five contests.

Updated March 15, 2014

127 © 2014 by STATS LLC and Associated Press.
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