Pelicans.com postgame: Pelicans 93, Wizards 89
By: Jim Eichenhofer, Pelicans.com, @Jim_Eichenhofer
LEXINGTON – New Orleans power forward Anthony Davis has authored a fantastic 2013 preseason, but Saturday wasn’t shaping up to be one of his better games, particularly on the offensive end. But Davis made his name as an NCAA superstar largely as a defender, so leave it to the second-year pro to provide heroics there in his “homecoming” preseason game at the University of Kentucky.
With the Pelicans leading 91-89 with 11 seconds remaining, Wizards guard Bradley Beal drove in for what appeared would be the game-tying layup. Instead, Davis caught Beal from behind and swatted the shot away with his outstretched right arm. The Pelicans collected the loose ball, which led to Jrue Holiday sealing the win by sinking two free throws with 7 seconds to go.
Yet another dramatic victory for New Orleans in preseason improved its record to 6-0, with games remaining Wednesday vs. Miami (the debut of remodeled New Orleans Arena) and Friday at Orlando. The Pelicans have now twice won by a margin of four points, along with other victories by one, two and three points.
Playing in his first competitive game at Rupp Arena since the Kentucky Wildcats’ 2011-12 national championship season, Davis picked up two first-quarter fouls and had to sit for chunks of the opening half. After tallying 20-plus points in each of the first four preseason contests, Davis finished with 16 points Saturday, going 6-for-10 from the field and 4-for-4 from the line in only 27 minutes. He was whistled for a fifth personal foul in the fourth quarter, but remained on the floor and made the pivotal block of Beal, who was otherwise superb with a game-best 30 points.
Once again in October, the Pelicans saved some of their best basketball for the final 12 minutes. New Orleans trailed 72-66 at the end of three quarters but outscored Washington 27-17 from there. Late-game preseason standout Brian Roberts came through with more big plays, including a three-pointer from the wing that gave New Orleans a brief 91-86 cushion with 33 seconds left.
The Pelicans also continued to benefit from balanced scoring that has made them difficult to defend. Holiday led New Orleans with 19 points, eight rebounds and eight assists, while Eric Gordon matched Davis' 16 points. Anthony Morrow added 15 points off the bench, along with seven rebounds.
On the negative side of the ledger, New Orleans coughed up a whopping 25 turnovers. In a sloppily played game, Washington somehow topped that with 28 turnovers.
The Pelicans regained the lead by playing tighter defense over the final few minutes, after the Wizards had scored 20 or more points in each of the initial three quarters.
“That’s what we’ve done lately,” Monty Williams said. “Holding teams to a low shooting percentage and low fourth-quarter points. I think a lot of it has to do with Jrue (defending) on the ball, and Anthony covering up mistakes at the rim.”
“We weren’t playing our best (prior to the fourth quarter),” said Davis, who also had the game-clinching block in Thursday’s victory over Oklahoma City. “We know that. We weren’t playing any defense. We know that we played terrible, but we kept fighting. It paid off tonight.”