LOS ANGELES – New Orleans (33-47) can’t affect its big-picture fate much over the final two games of the 2016-17 season, but that doesn’t mean there should be any drop-off in intensity or urgency, according to Pelicans forward Solomon Hill, who leads the team with 78 appearances out of 80 games.
“We just have to keep setting the standard: Hustling, communicating, talking,” Hill said this morning of the New Orleans defense, which has dropped off on this road trip, partly due to key personnel absences of Anthony Davis (knee) and DeMarcus Cousins (Achilles). “We’re putting some guys in new situations and a couple of our anchors are out. You look at what AD and DeMarcus do as far as protecting the paint. It’s definitely different when you lose certain guys, but the intensity and focus have to always be there.”
In the fourth and final meeting of the campaign with the Lakers (25-55), the Pelicans will again be without Davis and Cousins, who were ruled out yesterday on the team’s injury report. Los Angeles is actually one of the NBA’s hotter teams right now, having won four games in a row, a streak that is second-longest active in the league (the other Staples Center tenant, the Clippers, is riding a six-game streak).
“End of the season, there are situations where people are trying to (create a spot for themselves) in this league,” Hill, a Los Angeles native, said after shootaround of the Lakers’ recent winning ways. “Guys are getting opportunities. They found certain rotations that work for them. They are a hungry, young group that wants to play and finish the season out (strong).”
Other notes from shootaround:
Prior to this road trip, Hill had never played a game in his NBA career that was not relevant to a playoff race. In the only season Indiana did not qualify for the Eastern Conference postseason while Hill played there, the Pacers were eliminated on the final night of the season when they did not get help on the scoreboard. Hill, on the importance of taking every game and moment seriously, regardless of the circumstances: “Play the same way, no matter if it means anything or not. We’re all getting paid. We need to be professionals. You can’t take anything for granted. You want to go out playing the right way. That’s what we’re going to come out and try to do tonight. Play the same way as if this was the first game of the NBA Finals.” …
Roughly one-fourth of Cheick Diallo’s NBA experience has come in the past two games, with him logging 38 minutes out of 143 in his rookie campaign. The forward/center is focusing on the defensive end as his first pro year comes to a close. “I’m trying to get better defensively,” Diallo said. “Pick-and-roll, pick-and-pop, trying to guard multiple positions, trying to play like a team player.”