SAN ANTONIO — New Orleans guard Tyreke Evans turned and looked at the crowd in the AT&T Center, slowly retreating to the Pelicans bench like he had just won a shootout in the Old West.
Evans had just made a 3-pointer as time expired in the third quarter, drawing a groan and then silence from a crowd that was still in the throes of wildly cheering Manu Ginobili’s layup seconds earlier.
Evans learned a valuable lesson: Never turn your back on an opponent.
Anthony Davis had 27 points and 11 rebounds, and New Orleans held on for a 100-99 victory over the San Antonio Spurs on Saturday night, snapping a five-game skid against the defending NBA champions.
“We don’t back down from any team,” Evans said. “We came out and executed, played really hard the whole game.”
Well, except for about four, nerve-wracking minutes to in the final quarter.
After being dominated for 31/2 quarters, San Antonio went on a 15-4 run to take a 99-98 lead with 12 seconds remaining. The run was capped by three free throws by Danny Green, who was fouled by Eric Gordon as he attempted a wild 3-pointer as the shot clock was about to expire.
That’s when the Pelicans’ quiet leader made another loud impression in an impressive start to the season.
“When Danny Green made those three free throws, I told coach (Monty Williams), we’re going to win the game,” Davis said. “We’re going to get a bucket, and we’re going to win this game.”
It was the Spurs’ first lead since there was 8 minutes left in the first quarter. But, as he did all night, Davis came to the rescue.
Getting the ball at the top of the key, Davis drove by Aron Baynes for a layup with 6.6 seconds remaining.
“The play was supposed to go to Jrue (Holiday) for the back door, but me being me, when I caught the ball, I was in attack mode,” Davis said. “I just tried to make a good play. Jrue knew because he stopped and didn’t go. I just tried to be aggressive.”
NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard missed a pair of jumpers in the final seconds, ending San Antonio’s seven-game winning streak at home over New Orleans.
“It was definitely impressive for us to be able to come here and get a victory,” Williams said. “The way we did, the mental toughness down the stretch, to be able to handle them coming back, which they do.”
Evans scored 18 points, Jrue Holiday added 15 points and 11 assists and Gordon had 14 points for the Pelicans (3-2).
The victory enabled New Orleans to let out a collective sigh after nearly blowing a game they dominated with its hustle.
After Green blocked Holiday, Gordon gathered the ball in midair and laid it in for a 24-19 lead after hustling down the floor when no others did.
Davis later showed the same hustle to tip in Evans’ miss on a fast break for a 49-43 lead with 3 minutes left in the first half.
“We tried to get stops on defense and tried to rebound the ball to limit them to one shot,” Leonard said. “We all did a good job by just competing.”
Davis added six blocks, including one on a deep 3-pointer by Ginobili.
Holiday stripped Tim Duncan of a defensive rebound, eventually leading to a foul on Duncan on a layup by Omer Asik for a 64-62 lead midway through the third quarter.
Duncan had 11 points and 10 rebounds, the 800th double-double of his career. Parker finished with 28 points for San Antonio, which finished with 19 turnovers.