Anthony Davis’ return from a chest injury proved to be a triumphant one.
Davis scored 31 points, including a key three-point play late in the game, and the New Orleans Pelicans roared back in the fourth quarter to take a 119-111 victory over the Utah Jazz on Tuesday night at Smoothie King Center.
Davis played for the first time since suffering a chest contusion early in the first quarter Friday against Cleveland. He decided after Tuesday’s shoot-around practice that he would play.
“I was going to play and just determine whether I was going to finish, continue playing from there,” said Davis, who also had nine rebounds and three big blocked shots, all coming in the final three minutes. “I kind of got hit (on his chest) in the fourth quarter, I think. I got my fourth foul, but I had that adrenaline.”
The win enabled the Pelicans (12-12) to come out of a three-game homestand with a 2-1 record heading into a big Southwest Division game Thursday at Houston. And, it was New Orleans’ fourth win in six games, pushing its home record to 8-3 and, just as important, its Western Conference home mark to 4-3.
It wasn’t easy. The Jazz, just 6-19, outplayed New Orleans through three quarters, taking an 11-point lead entering the fourth by owning the lane. Utah finished with 68 points in the paint, a season-high for Pelicans opponents.
New Orleans, though, outscored Utah 41-22 in the fourth, the second-highest amount in a quarter this season.
The Pelicans shot 14-of-21 in the quarter. However, they also held the Jazz to 7-of-24 shooting.
The Pelicans, with a feeling of desperation seeming to envelope them as the game went on in the second half, did a much better job fighting hard over the top against Utah’s screens. The Jazz’s pick and rolls were a big reason for all the points in the paint, as the Pelicans center Omer Asik and Davis came over to defend, opening the way for 18 Utah offensive rebounds.
“They just didn’t want to lose,” Coach Monty Williams said. “They’d had that loss (against Oklahoma City) Sunday night, and they didn’t want that feeling again.
“We didn’t start off well, but we just dug down and played better defense as a team.”
Ryan Anderson scored 28 scored points on 10-of-15 shooting, including 6-of-10 on 3-point attempts. He and Davis were a most formidable duo, combining for 22-of-30 shooting from the field and 9-of-9 on free throws. Tyreke Evans had 19 points and six assists and seemed to will the Pelicans back .
By the 3:17 mark of the fourth, New Orleans had outscored Utah 27-15 to finally take the lead, 105-104, on a coast to coast drive by Evans. It came after a Davis’ block of Utah center Enes Kanter and gave the Pelicans their first lead since 2-0. Anderson then sank a big 3-pointer on the next possession for a four-point lead.
With 1:11 left, Evans drove and passed to Davis, who made a three-point play. The Pelicans led 113-108.
The Pelicans closed it out after that. Evans passed to Davis cutting to the basket for a backward dunk with 34.5 seconds left, then point guard Jrue Holiday drew a charge six seconds later, sealing the outcome.
The loss was the 13th in 14 games for the Jazz, who had lost six by six points or fewer during a recent nine-game losing streak.
“We played great for three quarters, and it was just a lot of mistakes that added up in the end,” said Kanter, who scored 29 points, with six of his seven rebounds being offensive.
The Pelicans trailed by 11 points entering the fourth. However, they seemed to catch a spark when Austin Rivers made a three-point play and sank a 3-pointer around a 3 by Anderson in a 25-second span, cutting the margin to 99-93 with 7:48 showing. Tyreke Evans followed with a coast-to-coast drive that resulted in a three-point play, and the Pelicans trailed just 102-99 with six minutes showing.
The Jazz had picked up where it left off in the first half, mainly having their way in the lane. With Kanter outworking the Pelicans, driving and tipping the ball in, Utah increased a three-point halftime lead to 67-57 3 ½ minutes into the third.
After a timeout, Davis hit a jumper, Asik had a three-point play and Dante Cunningham a jumper, bringing New Orleans to three points of the lead.
After the Pelicans pulled to 76-74 on a drive by Evans with 3:24 showing, the Jazz took off again. Hayward had two drives and a jumper, and Trevor Booker a jumper, as they pushed the lead to 86-76 with a minute left.
The quarter ended with Hayward missing a 3-point shot only to have rookie Dante Exum grab the rebound and put the ball in the basket in one motion for an 89-78 lead. It was Utah’s 56th point in the paint.
“We just didn’t come out with the pace we needed to come out with,” Davis said. “Why? I don’t know, but that’s something we’ve got to do better going into games. We don’t want to end up down 15, 20 (points) and having to fight back and there’s not enough time in the game.”