Pelicans start three-recreation street journey at New York Knicks

The New Orleans Pelicans open their three-game East Coast road trip with Sunday’s tilt against the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden.

The game is set to tipoff at 2:30 p.m.

The Pelicans (21-20) relied on their star players to come away with a 119-113 win over the Portland Trail Blazers on Friday.

Pelicans forward Anthony Davis had 36 points and nine rebounds in his return from a one-game suspension due to a right ankle injury. DeMarcus Cousins added 24 points, 19 rebounds and eight assists.

New Orleans heads into Sunday’s contest sitting at No. 8 in the Western Conference and remains one of the five teams fighting for the final four spots in the West’s highly competitive playoff race. 

The Knicks (19-23) put together an improbable fourth-quarter comeback to pull out a 105-103 win over the Pelicans on Dec. 30 at the Smoothie King Center in the first meeting between the teams.

Davis and Cousins accounted for 60 points and 28 rebounds, but Knicks forward Kristaps Porzingis led his team back from an eight-point deficit with just under three minutes remaining.

Porzingis scored seven of the Knicks’ final nine points and finished with 30 points and seven rebounds, but New York went on to lose five of its next six since that game.

But the Knicks received a boost with the return of shooting guard Tim Hardaway Jr. in Friday’s 118-108 loss to Minnesota. He missed the previous 20 games with a lower left leg stress injury and scored 16 points in 25 minutes.

Here are some of the keys going into Sunday’s matchup:

1. Good start

The Pelicans have been plagued by inconsistent play on both sides of the ball and it’s resulted with their record remaining around the .500 mark the entire season.

Sluggish starts have been one of the team’s biggest issues and an early tip in New York on the same day as the New Orleans Saints’ divisional playoff game seems like just the scenario that would result in another bad start. 

The Pelicans have trailed by 15 or more six times in the first half this season and it’s doubtful they’ll be able to overcome that type of deficit on Sunday.

2. Limit Porzingis

Porzingis has grown into one of the league’s most dynamic bigs and Davis admitted in an interview earlier this season with ESPN that Porzingis is one players he enjoys matching up against during the course of the year.

Porzingis got the best of Davis in December, and Davis will probably be looking to even things up after Sunday’s game.

The Pelicans forward has been dominant on the offensive end over the past few weeks, averaging 29.7 points on 56 percent shooting in his last seven games. 

3. Miller’s aggression

Pelicans forward Darius Miller had 16 points in Friday’s win and his shooting has been an essential piece of the their offense this season.

New Orleans is 11-3 when Miller makes at least three treys, but he’s shown the ability to make shots off the dribble and not settle when teams attempt to run him off the line.

Will Guillory can be…

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