The oft-maligned effort level of the Pelicans was not a problem tonight. However, they did need every single ounce of energy to narrowly defeat the Charlotte Hornets at the final buzzer.
It was a tale of two quarters in the first half for the Pelicans. The team started hot out of the gates, hitting 4 of their first 5 three-pointers, but they never were able to put any ground between themselves and the Hornets. In fact, Charlotte hovered around a 60% mark from the field, led by Kemba Walker, and it propelled them to a 34-32 lead after 12 minutes.
In the second quarter, New Orleans defense tightened up and limited the Hornets to 15 points to take a 57-49 lead into halftime. The Pelicans mainly rode an incredibly hot Ryan Anderson. He scored 21 first-half points including five makes behind the three-point line. As a team, New Orleans made 9 of 17 from that range.
Coming out of the break, the Pelicans quickly built a 13-point lead, but Charlotte refused to go quietly into the night. Nicolas Batum led the Hornets charge and helped cut their deficit to a mere 5 points with a little over six minutes to play in the third quarter. Less than three minutes later, Charlotte had a 73-70 lead -- yep, another patented swoon by the Pelicans offense.
New Orleans managed to get back on track, though, and re-took the lead thanks to more fireworks by Anderson. He scored the final five points of the quarter including a very difficult fadeaway three-pointer at the buzzer. This, after dribbling the basketball up the floor and taking on several Hornets.
The Pelicans good energy continued into the fourth quarter, although the Hornets refused to lay down. New Orleans had a narrow 1-point lead with 5:18 to go in the game despite two turnovers being sandwiched around an Eric Gordon lay-in.
Following a timeout, the rest of the game was fought tooth and nail. After falling behind 102-101, the Pelicans had two smart possessions in a row during the final two minutes. First, good ball movement resulted in a Gee lay-in then Holiday smartly backed the smaller-sized Walker into the paint for an easy score.
After Davis made two clutch free throws, the Pelicans held a 3-point advantage with 36 seconds remaining. The defense was strong, but Walker drilled a three-pointer with a Gordon hand in his face to tie things back up.
With 19 seconds remaining and the scored tied at 107, Holiday whittled the clock down and found Anthony Davis for a wide-open lob at the rim. The Hornets left Davis alone! Following several timeouts, a tipped attempted entry pass back out-of-bounds by Davis and a foul to give, Batum missed a tough turnaround from behind the arc.
Pelicans escaped with the win!
Ryan Anderson led the way with 32 points, 8 rebounds and 6 triples. Anthony Davis added 22 points but surprisingly just 5 rebounds. He did, however, have 4 assists, 2 blocks and was a key 6-7 from the free throw line. Off the bench, Jrue Holiday had a good looking line of 13 points, 10 assists and 6 rebounds in 27 minutes.
Nicolas Batum led the Hornets with 25 points and 7 assists, and his backcourt mate, Kemba Walker, also had 25 points.