There was no clock counting down in Anthony Davis’ head, no timer telling him the Houston Rockets were running out of time.
But as the New Orleans Pelicans forward stretched and hopped and waved his arms — trying as hard as he could to make a last-second inbound pass difficult for Houston’s Trevor Ariza on Saturday night — Davis had a sense of time.
“I wasn’t even counting,” he said. “It just popped in my mind as I was jumping, like, ‘I’ve been here a good 4 seconds. Maybe 4½.’ ”
Ariza barely got a pass in to Dwight Howard, and the Pelicans’ Tyreke Evans stole it as time expired to seal a 110-108 victory.
That last play — all energy and effort and communication — was a microcosm of what it took the Pelicans to get a much-needed win.
On a night when the Pelicans finally did what coach Alvin Gentry said before the game they had to do — get their offense and defense clicking in the same game — New Orleans made critical shots and timely stops, outscoring the Rockets 26-17 in the fourth quarter.
Eric Gordon gave the offense a boost, scoring 26 points on 10-of-12 shooting and making 6 of 8 3-pointers. Davis had 24 points, 13 rebounds and three blocked shots. Evans had 11 points and 13 assists, scoring nine in the fourth quarter. Ryan Anderson added 16 points.
New Orleans shot 50.7 percent from the floor and made 13 of 24 3-pointers.
“When someone gets going, you’re just going to be unpredictable throughout the rest of the game, because one guy gets hot, eventually somebody else will and other guys are going to be open,” said Gordon, who had 19 points on 7-for-7 shooting in the first half. “The good thing is, we just got the ball moving tonight. That’s what really is going to help us. As long as we move the ball and play good defense toward the end like we did, we’re going to always give ourselves a chance to win.”
That good defense came primarily in the fourth quarter.
Through three quarters, the Rockets were shooting 50.8 percent and had made 12 of 22 3-pointers.
But the Rockets — who beat San Antonio in Houston on Friday, later in the day than the Pelicans lost to the Heat in Miami — hit 11 of their first 15 3-pointers and 4 of their final 18. They shot 5-for-19 in the fourth quarter, including 3-of-11 from 3-point range.
“Everybody was making them,” Davis said. “We knew that back-to-back was going to kick in sooner or later. It did.”
So did the Pelicans defense.
James Harden scored 10 of his 25 points in the fourth but was 2-for-6 from the field thanks in part to stifling defense from Holiday.
Davis’ go-ahead dunk with 2:15 to play proved to be the game’s final basket, but Houston had more chances to score.
After Evans missed on a deep 3-pointer with 8 seconds to play, Holiday used the Pelicans’ foul to give on Harden with 1.7 seconds to play. That set up a final inbound play on which the Rockets nearly committed a five-second violation before Ariza threw the ball to center Dwight Howard — no 3-point threat — on the wing.
“They threw it into Dwight,” Holiday said. “If he’s going to make the shot, we were supposed to lose.”
Instead on Saturday, the Pelicans — who trailed by as many as 12 and never led by more than four — found a way to win, with offense and defense.
“I just thought we hung in through the ups and downs,” Gentry said. “It was a roller coaster but, in the end, when we had to make stops and when it really counted, we held them to 17 in the fourth quarter.”