Pelicans.com postgame: Pelicans 111, Pistons 106 (OT)
By: Jim Eichenhofer, Pelicans.com, @Jim_Eichenhofer
New Orleans Pelicans sixth man Tyreke Evans woke up Wednesday morning unsure of whether he’d be able to play against Detroit, having not even participated in a practice since he suffered a nasty left ankle sprain Friday vs. Oklahoma City. It wasn’t until Evans played a one-on-one halfcourt game later in the morning – against Pelicans assistant coach Carlos Daniel – that the fifth-year wing knew he was OK.
“Of course, I won,” a smiling Evans said of facing Daniel, a former Washington State standout and professional power forward overseas and in the CBA.
Evans picked up his second victory of Wednesday several hours later, providing a big spark as New Orleans (10-10) prevailed in overtime for the second time in its last four games. Logging 24 minutes off the bench, Evans netted 14 points, seven rebounds, three assists and two steals.
Just two days earlier, Evans had been declared out of action for potentially 1-2 weeks due to the injury, which he first aggravated in New Orleans’ first preseason game Oct. 5 at Houston. Evans missed six exhibition games as a result, but this time was able to play in his 20th consecutive regular season contest, with an assist from a rare four-day break in the schedule.
“I didn’t feel anything like I did in Houston,” Evans said, comparing this sprain to his previous one. “That time I felt like my ligaments were spreading apart. This time it just felt like a twist. It was painful, but I iced four times every day and got treatment. After shootaround, I felt good. I had a bounce.”
“He was huge,” Ryan Anderson said. “I was surprised at his energy. He looked great and looked like nothing fazed him, which was huge. You can see the difference with him on the court, so for him to come back was great.”
The Pelicans outlasted the Chicago Bulls in triple overtime on Dec. 2, but lost their two subsequent games at home last week to Dallas and Oklahoma City. Playing for the first time since the defeat to the Thunder, New Orleans led for most of the night despite a rare poor shooting performance from Anderson (6-for-18 total, 4-for-12 from three-point range). However, after his shot failed to drop in the first three quarters, Anderson nailed a key three-pointer in the fourth quarter and drained two more in OT.
Anderson put New Orleans in front 105-103 with 1:12 left in the extra period with a three-ball, a lead the Pelicans kept the rest of the way. He also swished two free throws with 21 seconds to go that gave New Orleans a two-possession edge at 108-104. Anderson finished with 22 points, with 11 of those coming in the fourth quarter or overtime.
“It was a rough night, but as a shooter, you have them all the time,” Anderson said of his early-game struggles. “So you’ve just got to keep taking them. Luckily the important ones went down and we got the win. That’s the most important thing.”
The victory improved New Orleans to 2-2 in full games since Anthony Davis (fractured left hand) was sidelined by injury Dec. 1 at New York. The Pelicans will continue to need productive performances from multiple players in Davis’ absence; they also received a career night vs. Detroit from Jason Smith (22 points, 16 rebounds). The 7-foot center surpassed his career high in boards and also came within four points of equaling his best NBA output in scoring. Meanwhile, point guard Jrue Holiday’s stellar floor game consisted of 19 points and eight assists.
“We really played hard tonight,” said Smith, a big key to the Pelicans holding a 51-43 rebounding edge against a Pistons squad anchored by a supersized frontcourt. “They’re a very good rebounding team. They’re physical down low and have athletic bodies.”
“He was a monster tonight,” Williams said. “He scored 22 points and had a career-high 16 rebounds. He’s a guy doing it on both ends of the floor.”
Detroit (10-13) forced overtime by outscoring New Orleans 22-13 in the fourth quarter after being behind on the scoreboard for the majority of regulation. The Pistons started OT quickly, but the Pelicans responded with a 10-3 run, featuring eight Anderson points.
"Give credit to Detroit," Smith said. "They hung in there. They continued to play hard. But in the end, we played together, played hard and never really gave in."