While both the New Orleans Pelicans and New York Knicks are playing out the string over the next few weeks, the Pelicans are having a hard time finding enough bodies to do just that.
The two also-rans meet Monday night at Madison Square Garden looking to build some momentum for the final weeks of the season.
The Pelicans (26-46) have resembled a walking wounded unit for most of the season, with their 253 man-games lost to injury trailing only Washington and Memphis. That has resulted in Alvin Gentry using 35 different starting lineups, and at least three of his top scorers - Anthony Davis, Eric Gordon and Tyreke Evans - are out for the season with various injuries.
Jrue Holiday and Ryan Anderson, though, also have been battling injuries and both sat out Saturday's 115-91 home defeat to Toronto. Gentry had only nine players available, and that was only because Tim Frazier signed a contract through the end of the season before the game. Frazier had 12 points off the bench and is averaging 14.2 in six games since joining the team.
It was the third straight game the Pelicans have been held under 100 points and continued their season-long inability to win games when held under the century mark. New Orleans is 0-33 when failing to reach 100 and the only team without a victory in such games.
"We have to be better offensively," Gentry said. "Scoring over 100, we get into a flow and that fuels our defense. When you play well offensively it has a tendency to pick up the defense as well."
One player trying to get the Pelicans over that hump is Alonzo Gee, who has been pressed into a starting backcourt role with Gordon and Evans sidelined. He's had season highs in points and minutes in each of the last two games, including 18 on 8-of-12 shooting in 41 minutes in Saturday's loss.
"Those are a lot of minutes but he is playing better," Gentry said. "He's playing good, solid basketball for us. He's taken what's available, finishing strong at the basket. He's taking advantage of those extended minutes."
While the Knicks (30-44) don't have a long list of injuries, a third straight season outside the playoffs is all but a certainty. After playing spoiler by sweeping a home-and-home series against Chicago, New York couldn't sustain that momentum Saturday at home against Cleveland, losing 107-93 as LeBron James posted a triple-double.
"We can try to win every game, that's our goal," said Knicks rookie Kristaps Porzingis, who is averaging 22.3 points in his last three games. "I don't know if it's still possible for us to make the playoffs, probably not, but (we can) just go out there, play every game at 100 percent, give our all and then we finish the season with no regret and giving our all."
Porzingis may benefit from not having Davis around this game considering the All-Star forward had 36 points and Porzingis was held to 10 while shooting 4 of 15 in New York's 95-87 victory Nov. 15. New York has won 11 of the last 14 between the teams and seeking its first season sweep since 2012-13.