After tying a franchise record with 10 consecutive wins, the New Orleans Pelicans returned to the Smoothie King Center for a critical three-game homestand and promptly lost the first two, the first while playing without All-Star forward Anthony Davis.
But even though Davis returned from a sprained ankle to post the first triple-double of his career -- 25 points, 11 rebounds and 10 blocks -- the Pelicans (38-28) dropped a 116-99 decision to the surging Utah Jazz on Sunday, making the race for the Western Conference playoffs even more challenging.
New Orleans needs to get back on track Tuesday night against the Charlotte Hornets (29-38), who snapped a five-game losing streak on Saturday with a 122-115 victory over the Phoenix Suns.
The Pelicans' inability to play better at home has befuddled coach Alvin Gentry. They are 21-14 on the road -- the fifth-best mark in the NBA -- but just 17-14 at home, which is 20th in the league.
"We have been a better road team than a home team, and I'm not sure I could tell you why," said Davis, who carried the Pelicans during the 10-game winning streak that moved them as high as No. 3 among the Western Conference seeds.
"We know we need to protect home court, and we've talked about it all year, but for whatever reason, we have been a better team on the road. We just have to turn it around and do what works on the road and do it in front of our fans and on our floor."
The Pelicans were outplayed by the Washington Wizards and the Jazz in the first two games of the homestand.
"We'll bounce back," Gentry said. "This team has been through tough times before, and I think you'll see us bounce back and continue to get back to where we were with regards to pace of the game. The last few games we've dropped to 13th, and we led the league in pace in February. So the first step is to get back to that."
Davis joined nine other players in NBA history to post a triple-double that included at least 10 blocks, which were a career high, and he also had three steals.
"It doesn't matter," Davis said. "We lost, so I really don't care about any career high or anything like that."
The Pelicans may get an important defensive reinforcement back in the lineup soon. Forward Solomon Hill, who tore a hamstring while working out last summer and underwent surgery, could be back in the next week. He has been practicing on a limited basis with the team for the last several weeks.
"We're so close to the finish line that we're definitely not going to rush the situation now," Gentry said. "I can see a situation where he might be able to play a few minutes here or there. We'll always err on the side of caution."
The Hornets may be without backup center Cody Zeller, who experienced soreness in his left knee after meniscus surgery and sat out the victory over Phoenix. The Hornets led by as many as 22 points but allowed the depleted Suns to cut the margin to two in the fourth quarter before pulling away on a 3-point bank shot by Nic Batum with 52 seconds left.
The Suns scored 43 points in the fourth quarter, which stunned defensive-minded Hornets coach Steve Clifford.
"We're less consistent with our intensity and we're less disciplined," Clifford said. "I mean, it starts with me. We've always been disciplined with our schemes, and we're just not."
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