Pelicans.com postgame: Pelicans 95, Celtics 92
By: Jim Eichenhofer, Pelicans.com, @Jim_Eichenhofer
BOSTON – After a scary fourth-quarter collision resulted in Ryan Anderson being taken to a local hospital with the diagnosis of a potential cervical stinger, the outcome of Friday’s game felt secondary to the well-being of one of the New Orleans Pelicans’ best players and people. Anderson exited the TD Garden on a stretcher with 11:02 remaining of what had been a tight game between the Pelicans and Celtics all evening.
New Orleans (15-16) held on for the victory when Jared Sullinger’s three-point attempt was wide right just before the buzzer, the final shot of a game which neither side led by more than eight points. Pelicans reserve guard Brian Roberts helped preserve the lead by sinking two free throws with 6.4 seconds remaining, maintaining his 100 percent foul shooting (22-for-22) this season.
“I wanted to get a guy who could knock down free throws,” Pelicans Coach Monty Williams said of Roberts, who received a pinpoint inbounds feed from fellow reserve Tyreke Evans. “I think the biggest thing is Tyreke makes a great pass. That’s a really tough thing to do, make a pass when you don’t have any timeouts left. BRob just stepped up and knocked down big free throws.”
“That feels good that Coach (Willliams) and the guys have confidence in me to put me out there in that kind of situation, where we need to have guys on the floor who can make free throws,” Roberts said. “It felt good. I went and knocked them down. It’s confidence for me, moving forward.”
It was fitting that two second-unit players combined to help cap Friday’s road victory, because New Orleans’ bench turned in arguably its most valuable performance of 2013-14. Prior to exiting the game, Anderson helped spark a reserve group that piled up 52 points on 22-for-37 field-goal shooting. Evans led the contingent with 16 points, while Anderson, Greg Stiemsma and Brian Roberts all scored between 11 and 13.
In a telling illustration of the bench’s timely contributions in Friday’s win, Stiemsma had scored a total of 16 points all season, spread out over 10 games. He nearly matched that Friday, tallying 12 points against one of his two former NBA teams. He went 6-for-7 from the field in 19 minutes. Among the Pelicans’ starters, only Anthony Davis played an above-average game, notching 23 points, nine rebounds and three blocks.
New Orleans protected a one-point lead entering the fourth quarter and trailed 75-73 at the time of Anderson’s injury. The clubs traded the lead several times down the stretch, with the Pelicans finally taking the upper hand for good on a Davis hook shot with 1:41 remaining that made it 91-90. Evans added a driving layup for a 93-90 edge at 0:42, prior to Boston’s Jeff Green sinking two free throws.
New Orleans managed to prevail despite being short-handed late in the game without Anderson. The Pelicans also allowed 28 second-chance points while giving up 22 offensive rebounds by the Celtics, but were able to hold Boston to a meager 34.8 percent shooting rate from the field.
“We just found a way to grind it out and get a big win,” Williams said.