Against the Phoenix Suns’ speedy backcourt, the New Orleans Pelicans stood tall at the end, and the result was a 110-106 victory Tuesday in a big Western Conference game at Smoothie King Center.
Tyreke Evans scored 24 points, including eight with the game on the line, to lead New Orleans. Backcourt mate Jrue Holiday had 21 points, including 12 in a big third quarter that kept the Pelicans in the game, as they outdueled Phoenix starters Goran Dragic, who had had 22, and Eric Bledsoe, who had 21.
Anthony Davis had 19 points and a season-high 18 rebounds. Ryan Anderson also scored 19 — on 8-of-10 shooting, including 3-of-4 on 3-point attempts.
His play early in the fourth quarter helped stake the Pelicans to a lead and set the tone for Evans’ closure.
“We just grinded out the win, just grinded it,” Holiday said proudly. “They made some plays, and we made some plays. At the end, we got some stops, and we were all right.”
The victory clinched a winning December for the Pelicans (16-15), giving them a 9-7 mark with only Wednesday’s game at San Antonio remaining in the month.
It also ended a six-game winning streak by Phoenix (18-15), which is in the eighth spot in the Western Conference playoff race. The Pelicans are in ninth, with the Spurs in seventh. Phoenix had beaten New Orleans four consecutive times and had won four of the past five meetings in New Orleans.
Evans’ two free throws with 14 seconds left produced a 108-104 lead.
Jimmer Fredette, who scored a season-high nine points off the bench, followed with two more free throws at 10.7 seconds, sealing the victory.
“We knew (Evans) was going to drive,” Suns small forward P.J. Tucker said. “He’s pretty crafty, and we did not do a good job on him.”
The Pelicans broke from a tie at 98 at the 3:13 mark to ease ahead 104-100 with 49.9 seconds left, as Evans, who scored 10 points in the fourth quarter, sank two free throws and hit a lean-back jumper. The latter was set up when Dante Cunningham stole an entry pass to Markieff Morris with 1:10 showing.
“I didn’t see him,” Morris said. “We kept getting a favorable matchup with Jrue on me. I don’t known why they were doing that, but Dante came over and made a big play.”
Anderson helped stake the Pelicans to an 88-83 lead three minutes into the fourth. For once in the game, New Orleans came up on the right end of a scramble play, and Fredette came up with a loose ball and found Anderson wide open on the left side for a 3-pointer that broke a tie at 81 at the 10:31 mark.
Anderson found Cunningham cutting to the basket for a layup 40 seconds later. The Pelicans led 88-83 after two free throws by Davis.
When Anderson sank a 3-pointer on the break at 7:12, New Orleans led 91-85. However, Phoenix stormed back behind Bledsoe’s drives and Morris’ short jumpers, mainly over Holiday, and tied the score at 95 at 4:53.
Veteran small forward John Salmons missed Tuesday’s game because of what the team said is a personal matter. About 1/12 hours before the game, coach Monty Williams said he’s not expecting Salmons back any time soon. “He’s dealing with a family issue, and it’s fairly serious.” Salmons, a 13-year veteran signed last summer as a free agent, played in 18 games at both small forward and shooting guard. He averaged 2.3 points on 34.8 percent shooting in 13.5 minutes per game.