MIAMI — A win is almost always sweet – but not when it comes at the expense of Anthony Davis and Ryan Anderson.
The Pelicans led all the way, routing the Miami Heat 105-91 on Saturday night at American Airlines Arena.
New Orleans snapped a four-game losing streak and kept pace with the Oklahoma City Thunder, who won earlier Saturday and hold a two-game lead over the Pelicans (28-27) in the battle for the eighth spot in the Western Conference playoff race.
But there was no need for Pelicans fans to celebrate.
Not after Pelicans star Anthony Davis re-injured his right shoulder when he collided with Heat center Hassan Whiteside with 3:07 left in the first quarter.
Davis did not return and finished with six points and six rebounds in nine minutes. He had missed the All-Star Game and two Pelicans games before returning on Friday … only to get hurt again.
In addition to Davis, the Pelicans lost forward Ryan Anderson with 9:41 left in the second quarter when Heat guard Mario Chalmers came down on his right ankle. Anderson finished with four points.
Fortunately for the Pelicans, guard Eric Gordon stepped up with a game-high 24 points. He had 16 of his points in the third quarter, when the Pelicans doubled their 10-point halftime lead.
Gordon was red hot in the third, making five of seven shots from the floor, including four of four on three-pointers.
New Orleans started the game quickly, taking a 25-14 lead after the first quarter. The Pelicans held the Heat to 25.0 percent shooting.
The Pelicans held a 52-42 lead at halftime despite an outburst by Chalmers. The Heat guard had 16 of the Heat’s 19 points during one stretch between the first and second period.
Gordon took over in the third, helping the Pelicans lead by as many as 25 points, and the Heat never recovered.
Besides Gordon, Pelicans starters Omer Asik (15 points, 9 rebounds) and Tyreke Evans (13 points, 6 assists) also contributed.
The Pels spoiled the much-hyped debut of point guard Goran Dragic, who arrived from the Phoenix Suns on Wednesday in a three-team traded that also included New Orleans.
Dragic, an NBA All-Star last year, was held to 12 points and just one assist. He made 4 of 11 shots from the floor, which is below average for a player who entered the game as the second-most-accurate guard in the NBA.
The Pelicans made a lineup change of their own — but it was subtle.
Pelicans small forward Quincy Pondexter made just his third start of the season and his first since Dec. 17. Pondexter, who had five points in 27 minutes, got the start in place of Dante Cunningham, who was used off the bench.
New Pelicans backup point guard Norris Cole, acquired from the Heat in the Dragic deal, received a standing ovation from the Miami crowd when he entered the game with 7:32 left in the first quarter.
Cole, who went to three NBA Finals and won two titles in three full years in Miami, finished with 12 points, three assists and one steal in 30 solid minutes.
“You make business decisions,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said of the Cole trade. “But that doesn’t change that you develop relationships, especially with guys you’ve been to the mountain top with like Cole.
“Hopefully, 20-25 years from now, we’ll have a reunion. We’re always going to be brothers. He’s one of my favorite guys, one of my favorite pros.”
New Orleans is a game above .500 (28-27), and still six games behind fourth-place San Antonio in the five-team Southwest Division. ... Gordon was averaging 11 points in his most recent six games before Saturday. His 16 third-quarter points matched the biggest single-quarter scoring output in any game of his career.
With Dragic in the starting lineup, the Heat had yet another new opening five — their 22nd in 54 games this season.