Playing at home in the second game of a back-to-back, the New Orleans Pelicans were determined Tuesday night at Smoothie Kng Center.
With Anthony Davis leading the way with 24 points and 13 rebounds, New Orleans bounced back from its loss in Memphis with a 100-91 victory against Charlotte.
It was the first game between the two franchises to bear the Hornets nickname. More important, it followed losses against Southwest Division foes Dallas and Memphis with a matchup Saturday at defending NBA champion San Antonio starting a tough spurt of games.
New Orleans, held to 33.7 percent shooting against Memphis, the No. 1 defensive team in the league, shot 46.9 percent against the Hornets.
The Pelicans outrebounded Charlotte 47-34, with three Pelicans – Davis, Omer Asik (11) and Tyreke Evans (10) getting double-figure rebounds.
Jrue Holiday was strong in a leadership role with 16 points, nine assists and no turnovers, and Ryan Anderson (16 points) and Austin Rivers (12 points, five rebounds, three assists) had solid contributions off the bench.
“I thought the energy was really good for us, especially in a back-to-back,” Pelicans coach Monty Williams said. “We played a really tough game in Memphis. Our guys were in the gym (Tuesday morning) ready to go.”
The Pelicans made all 19 of their free throws and had only two turnovers in the second half.
Having let part of a 15-point third-quarter lead slip away, the Pelicans (2-2) battled before shooting to a 90-75 lead midway through the fourth quarter on a 3-pointer by Tyreke Evans off a drive-and-dish by Jrue Holiday.
Still, New Orleans led 92-77 with 4:47 left when Kemba Walker sank a 3-pointer and Gary Neal hit a jumper on the fast break. However, Evans made a determined drive a minute later. Then, with 1:36 left, Davis answered a 3 by Marvin Williams by dunking a miss by Evans, bringing the lead to 98-87. Ball game.
Hornets coach Steve Clifford said his team failed at the fundamentals, such as getting back on defense. Center Al Jefferson went further.
“We weren’t disciplined, didn’t stick to our rules,” said Jefferson, who had 20 points but just five rebounds. “We didn’t get back on defense, and we didn’t block out.
“But (the Pelicans) made big plays, some big shots.”
None bigger than Davis in the third quarter. With the Pelicans having blown a second-quarter lead, Davis scored 12 points on 5-of-7 shooting in the third.
He helped the Pelicans to an 11-2 spurt and a 58-50 lead at 5:14.
With the help of Holiday operating like a pure point guard, Davis hit three jump shots in the run.
Davis later made the Hornets (1-3) pay for a double team with a pass to Evans, who sank a 3-pointer. And, at 4:43 Davis hit another jumper after Holiday made the extra pass. New Orleans led 63-54.
“It was just the shots they were giving me,” Davis said. “They were trying to double-team our guards, and I just popped back. I’m confident in may shot, and they went in for me.”
Holiday later propelled the Pelicans to a 71-56 in the third quarter, driving for a basket and throwing a lob to Davis, who dunked with 1:17 left.
However, once again, the Pelicans couldn’t stand prosperity. Ignited by Gary Neal’s 3-pointer after Holiday’s drive, Charlotte outscored New Orleans 7-2 the rest of the way to close to 73-65 at quarter’s end.
New Orleans led 26-21 after the first quarter by picking up where they left off with the physical, aggressive play they exhibited in Memphis, but shooting a tad better.
Mainly, New Orleans began going aggressively to the rim. Although it shot 41.2 percent, it paid off in 10 free throws, with the Pelicans making all of them. The Pelicans also scored 10 points in the lane and five second-chance points and scored four on fast breaks, already more than they had Monday night at Memphis.
However, in the second quarter, Jefferson exploited the Pelicans’ the strategy of playing in front of him in the post by catching passes over the top and using pump fakes to get layups.
He scored eight of his 12 points in the quarter, and Charlotte scored 18 points in the paint after getting just six in the first quarter.
And, the Hornets scored 10 points off six New Orleans turnovers.
Still, New Orleans led 47-42 with 2:08 showing. However, Jefferson pump-faked Asik for a layup, Gary Neal scored on a drive, and with 22.3 seconds left, Gerald Henderson took the ball from Eric Gordon, was fouled by him, and made both free throws. Just like that, Charlotte led 48-47 at halftime.
All three of the Pelicans’ backup small forwards were unavailable for Tuesday’s game. John Salmons was still out due to the birth of his and his wife’s baby on Monday. “Luke (Babbitt) hurt his finger (Monday) night (at Memphis) … and Darius (Miller) has some personal issue going on right now that he’s taking care of,” Coach Monty Williams said.