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New Orleans Pelicans fall behind big early, nearly force overtime, but ultimately lose to Philadelphia 76ers, 121-120

Anthony Davis missed a final free throw attempt that would have tied the game with 2.5 seconds left.

NBA: New Orleans Pelicans at Philadelphia 76ers Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Back on the road, the New Orleans Pelicans immediately returned to their losing ways, but tonight’s outcome could have worked out far differently for a change.

The Pelicans really had no business of potentially stealing away a victory in Philadelphia, but with 2.5 seconds remaining, Anthony Davis was fouled on a desperation three-point attempt and had the opportunity to knot the game up at 116 with three makes from the free throw line. He made the first two but then the third rimmed out so the 76ers escaped with a nail-biting win — despite leading by as many as 16 points.

It was an interesting battle between the two MVP candidates to say the least. Joel Embiid set the tone early, scoring 18 points and grabbing seven rebounds in the first quarter en route to a dominant 31-point, 19-rebound, 2-assist, 2-block and 2-three line. Anthony Davis, on the other hand, struggled to get the ball through the hoop throughout the contest.

Needing just six points to join the 10,000 point club was a task in itself. It took Davis seven shot attempts, which included four turnovers up to that point.

Davis finished with 12 points on 13 shots overall, missed three of his seven free throw attempts and totaled six turnovers on the night. Looking through a different lens though, Davis posted a rare 5x5 line — 12 points, 16 rebounds, six assists, five steals and five blocks.

It’s a shame Davis struggled so much from the field because he got plenty of support from his teammates. Jrue Holiday was spectacular outside of five costly turnovers, breaking down the Sixers defense at will. He finished with 30 points and 10 assists, and pulled this gem out of his hat when he got into trouble.

Maybe Russell Westbrook could pull off a creative move like this, but that’s about it, right?

Holiday’s ab fab backcourt mate E’Twaun Moore hit 30 points again — ho-hum — the third time he’s reached this plateau in the last six games. He’s definitely on a hot streak, but it’s high time some start giving him credit for his recent display instead of referring to it as a blip on the radar. I see improvement in his game and Moore’s points always come within the flow of the offense — that’s important because he’s not first, second or even third on the pecking order.

Off the bench, Julius Randle was divine again, posting 22 points, 10 rebounds and three assists in only 28 minutes. He also did this wonderful impersonation of Stephen Curry.

With so many stellar performances, you’re probably wondering how in the heck did the Pelicans lose this game. Well, once again, the theme of the night was a terribly slow start out of the gates.

Through seven minutes of action, New Orleans trailed 26-11. They lacked the necessary focus to play an NBA game until the second quarter and the 76ers appropriately pounced. Philly didn’t do anything special — they missed 13 of 17 three-point attempts, lived in the paint and at the free throw line and took full advantage of Pelican miscues and missed bunnies. By halftime, New Orleans was saddled with 11 turnovers and they made just 13 of 31 shots inside the paint (41.8%)

New Orleans chipped at the deficit several times, closing the gap to three points in the second quarter and then four points a few times in the fourth before Davis had a golden opportunity for redemption in the waning seconds. But amid all the jeers of a very loud Wells Fargo crowd, Davis final free throw attempt rimmed out and the Pelicans were unable to rebound the ball and seek some miraculous putback.

Onto New York to face a Knicks squad on Friday that defeated the Celtics in Boston tonight and pushed the Pelicans to win in crunch time less than a week ago inside the Smoothie King Center.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving, y’all — See you on the other side!