LOS ANGELES — Playing without the player they can least afford to lose, the New Orleans Pelicans fell just short against one of the NBA’s hottest teams Sunday afternoon.
Jrue Holiday hit three free throws with 1.6 seconds remaining in regulation as the Anthony Davis-less Pelicans forced overtime at the Staples Center. But New Orleans lost a free-throw battle in the extra period as the Clippers pulled out their ninth consecutive victory 114-111.
“I felt like we competed and got ourselves back in the game,” said Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry, whose team trailed by 12 points in the second half before rallying. “We ended up with a wide-open shot (a 3-point try by Dante Cunningham late in regulation) that could have put us up one point with very little time left.
“All I’m looking for is what we did today — to compete like we did and give ourselves a chance to win. We just have to make plays late that can get us over the hump.”
Holiday’s 3-pointer with 3:30 left in the fourth quarter cut the Pelicans’ deficit to 98-96, but the visitors failed on several chances to equalize.
Holiday missed a potential tying jumper with 51 seconds remaining, and Cunningham missed from 3 with a two-point deficit and seven seconds left. But the Clippers’ J.J. Redick then missed one of two free throws, opening the door for Holiday to tie it.
Los Angeles (25-13) shot 58.3 percent in the second quarter and 54.5 percent in the third to surge ahead of the Pelicans, then keep them at bay until a furious rally in the fourth.
In the end, the Pelicans (11-25) did not have enough firepower without Davis, who was scratched just before tipoff with a back contusion. He was injured during Friday’s home loss against Indiana.
They fell to 0-4 this season without the All-NBA first-team power forward. The Clippers have won the past eight games of their streak without All-Star forward Blake Griffin.
“We battled hard today,” said forward Ryan Anderson, who started in Davis’ place. “It’s frustrating to lose a close one, but you can’t knock our effort.”
Holiday led the Pelicans with a season-high 29 points off the bench, and Tyreke Evans had 26. Anderson scored 16 and had 10 rebounds. Chris Paul led the Clippers with 25 points and 11 assists.
“I think today was some of the most consistent effort we have had,” Holiday said. “If we go into every game with that type of effort, we will continue to give ourselves a chance to win.
“There were some big shots that we obviously wish we could have made, but that’s the NBA. It’s all about taking those big shots at the end. If you miss them or make them, I know my teammates have my back.”
Holiday hit 11 of 27 from the field in a season-high 36 minutes. He tied Omer Asik for the team lead with 11 rebounds.
“Jrue has been playing great, so it’s not a surprise to me,” Gentry said. “He didn’t really shoot the ball as well today as he has been shooting, but I thought he attacked the rim and did a good job of playing with force and forcing the issue.”
The Pelicans stay in L.A. through Tuesday, when they face the Lakers at 9:30 p.m. before a trip to Sacramento on Wednesday.