MIAMI (AP) – After all the winning he experienced in Miami, Norris Cole likes to think he can be a steadying force on a young team like the New Orleans Pelicans.
So far, so good.
Cole will face his old club for the second time in a week Friday night when the Pelicans host the Heat.
New Orleans (30-27) has won all three games since Cole joined the lineup following a multi-team trade last week – even as other key Pelicans players, including All-Star Anthony Davis, have been sidelined by injuries.
“Norris has been a bright spot for us because he brings some intangibles to the table,” coach Monty Williams said after practice Thursday. “He’s played in really big games. Nothing fazes him. We’re glad to have him.”
The Pelicans valued Cole, a point guard, primarily because of his reputation as a strong on-the-ball defender, but have been pleasantly surprised by his scoring.
Cole, who was included in a trade which also sent guard Goran Dragic from Phoenix to Miami, averaged 6.3 points in 47 games with the Heat this season. With the Pelicans, he scored 12 points in a 105-91 win at Miami on Saturday, 15 against Toronto on Monday and 11 against Brooklyn on Wednesday.
“I’ve always been able to play offense. It’s just that with certain dynamics with teams, you’re asked to play a certain way and I’m a team player, but I work on my (offense) a lot,” said Cole, who was part of Miami’s 2012 and 2013 championship teams. “I can put the ball in the hole.”
Cole’s contributions have helped New Orleans stay in playoff contention at a time when their prospects looked bleak.
Davis and another of New Orleans’ top scorers, forward Ryan Anderson, were hurt in the first quarter Saturday. Davis (right shoulder) is expected to miss up to two weeks and Anderson (sprained right knee) up to a month.
Yet, thanks to their modest winning streak, the Pelicans are within striking distance of Oklahoma City for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
The Heat (25-31) are in seventh place in the East and have little room for error with five teams within 2 1/2 games.
Since losing to the Pelicans in Dragic’s debut, Miami defeated Philadelphia 119-108 on Monday and rallied from an eight-point deficit with less than a minute to play in the fourth quarter to win 93-90 in overtime at Orlando on Wednesday.
Playing in his second game since signing a 10-day contract, Henry Walker was 2 of 11 from 3-point range, but his two makes came in the final 22 seconds of regulation.
“He kept on shooting and that’s what you like,” coach Erik Spoelstra said. “He has fearlessness about him.”
Luol Deng had another solid showing after finishing with six points on 2-of-7 shooting with four turnovers against the Pelicans. He has totaled 50 points and made 19 of 28 shots with one turnover in the last two games, and the Heat are 9-0 when he scores at least 20.
Michael Beasley is expected to be in uniform against the Pelicans after signing a 10-day contract Thursday. Miami signed the 6-foot-10 Beasley, who is on his third tour with the Heat, to add frontcourt depth in the wake of losing Chris Bosh to the season due to blood clots on a lung.
“I feel great,” Beasley said. “I’m definitely blessed and humbled for yet another opportunity and I’m ready to take it by storm.”
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