The New Orleans Pelicans finally have a chance to catch their breath.
They grinded out a 118-114 victory against the Western Conference-leading Oklahoma City Thunder on Wednesday night in the Smoothie King Center.
Now they have three days off before hosting Miami, the first time in five weeks they have had more than one day between games.
“We need it,” forward Julius Randle said of the break.
Anthony Davis scored a season-high 44 points, his second consecutive game with 40-plus points, and added 18 rebounds.
Randle added 22 points and 12 rebounds, Jrue Holiday had 20 points and 10 assists and Darius Miller came off the bench to score 10 points.
Coach Alvin Gentry said before the game that he planned to start reducing the minutes for Davis and Holiday, who are playing the most and second-most minutes in the NBA. But New Orleans was short-handed as forwards E’Twaun Moore (calf) and Nikola Mirotic (ankle) were sidelined as was starting point guard Elfrid Payton, who’s expected to miss another few weeks because of finger surgery.
Davis, who’s averaging 36.9 minutes, played 40 and Holiday, who’s averaging 36.7, played 34.
“If that’s what we’ve got to do to win games, then that’s what we’ve got to do,” Gentry said. “We’re going to rest them when we can, but we’ve got to try and win some games.”
New Orleans (15-15) has played the most games of any team in the NBA, but plays just once in the next six days.
“We’ll definitely rest,” Gentry said. “It’s not going to be one of those situations where we’re suddenly going to have three long practices. We need the rest and those guys need the rest.”
The Pelicans had 74 points and a 56-39 rebounding advantage against Oklahoma City (17-9), which had won five of its past six and 17 of its last 21.
“We have a very versatile team,” Randle said. “We can be pretty dominant (in the paint) when we make up our minds to do it.”
Paul George had 25 points and 11 rebounds to lead the Thunder, who had won five of their last six games, Dennis Schroder came off the bench to score 24 points, and Russell Westbrook and Steven Adams had 20 points each. Westbrook’s three first-half points were a season-low.
New Orleans led by a point at halftime and early in the third quarter the lead changed hands four times and the score was tied three times.
Davis scored three points during a 7-0 run that gave the Pelicans a 74-67 lead.
Westbrook scored seven points as the Thunder got within 89-84 after the third quarter.
New Orleans increased the lead to 98-89 on a bank shot by Holiday.
Oklahoma City got back-to-back 3-pointers from Terrance Ferguson and Westbrook, but New Orleans answered with a three-point play ny Darius Miller and a dunk by Randle.
The Thunder got within 100-95 on George’s 3-pointer, but Solomon Hill answered with a basket for New Orleans.
Oklahoma City got within five twice, but Davis answered with a basket both times.
Two turnovers by Holiday led to a layup by Westbrook and a three-point play by George that got the Thunder within 116-114 with 48 seconds left.
After Davis missed, Oklahoma City had a chance to tie or go ahead, but Westbrook missed a 3-pointer and Randle rebounded and was fouled. He missed both free throws with 10 seconds left.
Alex Abrines missed a 3-pointer Hill made two free throws with 0.4 seconds left.
“In the end,” Gentry said, “when we had to have two stops we got two great stops.”
The Pelicans’ victory continued a trend in which they have alternated wins and losses for nine straight games.
“We have (a break) where we can regroup and recollect ourselves and try to put a string of wins together,” Davis said.