The New York Knicks had way too much offensive success in the first half, and through three quarters kept the game close.
The New Orleans Pelicans buckled down and took a 13-point fourth-quarter lead on their way to a 104-93 victory Tuesday night at Smoothie King Center.
New York’s Carmelo Anthony, who had averaged 35.5 points the past two times he played in New Orleans, was held to 17, shooting 6-of-11. Pelicans coach Monty Williams had said the way to slow Anthony, a prolific shooter, was to limit his touches.
A key defender in executing the plan was recently signed Dante Cunningham, who played 30 minutes, 59 seconds. However, he said it wasn’t just him.
“Everybody on the court was watching Melo,” said Cunningham. “You always keep an eye on him, keep a hand on him, know where he is all the time.
“No one can stop Melo one-on-one. I had a guy to my left and to my right at all times, and they were talking.”
The Pelicans (10-10) ended New York’s five-game winning streak in New Orleans and won their second consecutive game with a brutal rest of December facing them. Starting with Wednesday night’s second game of a back-to-back at Dallas, by month’s end, the Pelicans will have faced teams with a 67.0 winning percentage.
The loss was the ninth in a row for New York (4-19) under first-year coach Derek Fisher. Center/forward Amar’e Stoudemire led New York with 26 points, but he scored 10 in the second half.
Tyreke Evans had a game-high 27 points to lead the Pelicans. However, New Orleans pounded the Knicks on the boards, 43-30, getting 12 offensive rebounds. Omer Asik had game highs of 14 rebounds and five offensive rebounds to go along with a season-high 16 points. Anthony Davis scored just 18 points, seven below his season average. However, he had 13 in the second half and led the way in the third quarter when New Orleans began taking control.
“The rebounding was the big difference in the game, especially the offensive rebounding,” said Knicks backup center Jason Smith, who had played for New Orleans the past four seasons. “Asik is just a huge guy at the rim, waiting for tip-ins, and he’s hard to stop.”
The Pelicans began the quarter with a 6-0 spurt to gain the game’s first double-figure lead, 83-73, with Jrue Holiday starting it with a three-point play and Austin Rivers sinking a 3-pointer at 10:40 for the 10-point bulge.
And, with 8:28 showing, the type of play that happens to a team on a long losing streak occurred. Rivers was bumped while driving, and lost the ball. It went to Asik, who scored for an 87-75 lead.
When Rivers drove and passed to Asik for a basket 2½ minutes later, New Orleans led 91-78, and the Knicks, who had seen this movie countless times, appeared to loose steam and little pep in their step.
The Pelicans appeared to finally begin shaking loose from the Knicks midway of the third, taking a 64-59 lead. Davis, held to six points in the first half, scored 11 in the quarter, including three dunks off drives by Holiday and Evans.
When the Pelicans led 77-70 with 40.3 seconds left on one such dunk by Davis, it marked the largest lead of the game. However, guard J.R. Smith sank a 3-pointer over Ryan Anderson at the third-quarter buzzer to keep New York close at 77-73.
But the Knicks fizzled after that. J.R. Smith said the Knicks got away from their offense, but their biggest problem was defense. The Pelicans, who lead the league in points in the paint, had 54 to the Knicks’ 40. And, although New York led 12-2 in second-chance points in the first half, the Pelicans ended the game with a 15-14 edge.
“They moved the ball from side to side,” he said. “It was hard to guard the perimeter. They just got into the paint, made dump-offs, got second shots and finished at the rim.”
The Pelicans eked out a 54-52 halftime lead. The Knicks were able to stay close due to the 12 second-chance points and Stoudemire’s 16 points. Stoudemire scored 12 in the second quarter by going 5-of-5 from the field and making both free-throw attempts. Anthony and J.R. Smith each had 10.
Evans led New Orleans with 15 points, but no other Pelican was in double figures. Davis had just five points on 1-of-6 shooting.
However, what was of most concern was that New York, which averages just 94 points per game, was on a pace to score more than 100. In slowing Stoudemire, the Pelicans held the Knicks to 16 points in the paint in the second half and went inside themselves. New Orleans made more free throws (20) than the Knicks attempted (13).
Eric Gordon said Tuesday that the rehabilitation of his torn left labrum is going well. “I’ll return to practice in two weeks,” he said. … Rookie point guard Russ Smith said he expects to rejoin the NBA Development League Fort Wayne Mud Ants this weekend. He was sent to Fort Wayne on Dec. 4 and played two games, averaging 14.5 points and 3.0 steals per game. He was called back up by the Pelicans to participate in practices because the Mad Ants, off since Monday, don’t play again until Friday. … Wednesday night’s opponent, the Dallas Mavericks, beat the Pelicans 109-104 on Nov. 1 at Smoothie King Center in the teams’ first meeting this season. Dallas shot 51.7 percent for the game and outscored the Pelicans 23-15 in the fourth quarter. The Mavs had won six of their past seven games heading into Tuesday’s game at Memphis but were 2-2 in their past four home games.