Pelicans.com postgame: Pelicans 110, Blazers 108
By: Jim Eichenhofer, Pelicans.com, @Jim_Eichenhofer
Tyreke Evans had penetrated to the basket with relative ease all game Monday, but with the score tied and the frantic final seconds ticking down in the fourth quarter, the Portland Trail Blazers weren’t about to let Evans drop in yet another layup. No matter. Evans lofted a 15-foot stepback shot over Mo Williams, swishing a rare jumper to give New Orleans the decisive points in a thrilling victory. In front of a sellout crowd, the Pelicans (14-15) posted their finest win of 2013-14, beating a Trail Blazers squad that is near the top of the Western Conference standings. It was also the first time all season that Portland (24-7) has lost two straight games, after dropping a similar heartbreaker Saturday to Miami.
On the sequence that led to Evans’ game-winner, Portland point guard Damian Lillard rolled in a clutch three-pointer to tie the game at 108 with 10.9 seconds left. Instead of calling timeout, Pelicans Coach Monty Williams let his team push the ball up the floor. Evans methodically dribbled into the frontcourt, isolating on the smaller Mo Williams on the right wing. Asked after the game if his head coach would’ve preferred that he try to get a closer shot in that critical situation, Evans smiled.
“Yeah, I think he would’ve preferred for me to go to the basket,” Evans said. “He knows that’s what I do best. But he knows I can make those type of shots. I had to have the confidence to do it. (Mo Williams) was backing up on me. I kind of just let it fly. I made the shot, that’s all that matters.”
Evans’ biggest shot of his brief two-month tenure as a Pelican punctuated a night in which he scored 20 points and joined Jrue Holiday (31 points, 15 in the fourth quarter) and Anthony Davis (27 points, 12 rebounds) in registering a memorable performance. Holiday was locked in during crunch time, repeatedly sinking key perimeter shots en route to his season high in scoring. Facing Lillard, one of the game’s rising stars, the 2013 All-Star point guard went 7-for-12 from the field in the fourth quarter. On three separate occasions in the final 8:56 of the game, Holiday broke a tie score by tallying a basket. He also scored four of New Orleans’ final six baskets, assisting on a key Davis layup with 3:00 remaining. The only late-game hoop Holiday was not involved in was Evans’ game-decider.
“I kind of felt like (Portland was) just backing off,” Holiday said of his series of made jumpers. “I can knock down a 15-foot jump shot, so I just let it ride.”
Meanwhile, Davis was a force in each half, finishing with 27 points, approaching his NBA high of 32. He had 13 points in the first half, helping power New Orleans to a 56-49 lead. His 10-point third quarter enabled the Pelicans to maintain a seven-point edge entering the final 12 minutes. He also blocked five shots, including pulling off the rare feat of twice rejecting a LaMarcus Aldridge (28 points, 8 rebounds) turnaround fadeaway shot on the baseline. The Pelicans also enjoyed a 47-38 rebounding advantage.
“We were just battling,” Davis said. “Coach talked this morning about being tough and being physical. That’s what we tried to do. (The Trail Blazers) have a lot of good players on their team and guys who can shoot the ball. We just had to get stronger, fight more and rebound the ball.”
The result was New Orleans’ first victory of 2013-14 against a club that is currently in the top eight of the Western Conference standings. After an 0-4 start to their recent pre-Christmas road trip, the Pelicans have now won three of their last four games – with the lone defeat coming in narrow fashion on the road vs. a quality Houston club. Next up for New Orleans is a four-game road trip to start the 2014 calendar at Minnesota, Boston, Indiana and Miami. The Pacers and Heat are hands-down the best two teams in the Eastern Conference.
“We definitely think we’re getting a lot more confident in each other defensively,” Holiday said. “We’re still learning each other. We’re still young. Going into the New Year, it’s good to get a home win. As a team collectively, we know how good we can be. We know that it’s a process and we need to kind of piggyback off this win.”