MIAMI — A win is almost always sweet — but not when it comes at the expense of Anthony Davis and Ryan Anderson.
Both have MRIs scheduled for Sunday, the results of which loom even larger than the Pelicans’ 105-91 wire-to-wire win over the Miami Heat on Saturday night at American Airlines Arena.
But even without their All-Star Davis and their key off-the-bench scorer Anderson, the Pelicans played well, led by guard Eric Gordon’s game-high 24 points.
“When AD and Ryan went down, I didn’t see anyone buckle,” Pelicans coach Monty Williams said. “We beat a good team on their home floor.”
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.
Davis, who had missed the All-Star Game and two Pelicans games because of a right shoulder injury, re-aggravated the problem when he collided with Heat center Hassan Whiteside with 3:07 left in the first quarter.
The Pelicans lost Anderson with 9:41 left in the second quarter when Heat guard Mario Chalmers came down on his right ankle. Anderson, who had also missed two games before the break because of a right elbow strain, finished with four points.
Fortunately for the Pelicans, Gordon got 16 of his points in the third quarter, when the Pelicans doubled their 10-point halftime lead.
“I was focused on knocking down shots, mostly threes,” said Gordon, who made five of seven shots from the floor in the third, including four of four on three-pointers. “I took my time.”
Gordon said he reacted to the defense.
“Sometimes, they don’t want me to get to the basket,” he said. “I saw guys backing up a little bit.”
Besides Gordon, Pelicans starters Omer Asik (15 points, 9 rebounds) and Tyreke Evans (13 points, 6 assists) also contributed.
The Pelicans 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.
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.
“It was awkward at first (playing against Miami),” said Cole, who came out of college and made three straight NBA Finals while playing for the Heat. “I’m still figuring out the (Pelicans’) plays.”
Williams said Cole brings a different dimension to his team, especially with starting point guard Jrue Holiday out at least another three weeks due to injury.
“He’s fearless,” Williams said of Cole. “Defensively, he was a monster, getting over screens, diving on the floor, scrambling for the ball.
“We don’t have anyone that can get on the ball like that, minus Jrue.”
Cole finished with 12 points, three assists and one steal in 30 solid minutes, and you can bet the Heat misses his energy.
“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.”