After New Orleans survived a stunning fourth-quarter surge by LeBron James and forced overtime, injured veteran center Kendrick Perkins pulled Pelicans teammate Anthony Davis aside for a quick word.
“Perk told me, ‘This is the time where you’ve got to be great,’ ” Davis said. “Every time I caught the ball, I was looking to be aggressive and teammates were looking for me. … So it was just about me knocking down the shots.”
The former University of Kentucky star hit three jump shots from beyond 12 feet to start overtime, capping a 31-point, 12-rebound, four-steal performance that lifted New Orleans to a 114-108 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Friday night.
“It just shows that when we play like we’re supposed to, we can beat anybody,” Davis said, alluding to an earlier victory over San Antonio. “We’ve just got to do it against teams that are not the Spurs or not Cleveland. We can’t play down to the level of our competition. We’ve got to make sure we’re playing at a high level every game.”
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Eric Gordon had 19 points and Ryan Anderson 18 for the Pelicans (5-15), who led by 13 with less than 7 minutes left in the fourth quarter.
The Cavs stormed back to take a late lead, with James scoring 21 of Cleveland’s last 24 points of regulation.
“What else was I going to do?” James said. “I tried to make something happen for our team, be aggressive and see if I could make a push. And if not, at least I put in the effort.”
Jrue Holiday’s three pulled New Orleans back into a tie at 105 with 8 seconds left before James, who finished with 37 points, missed a 19-footer that could have won it. James didn’t score in overtime, missing two shots.
“We played a pretty good game tonight,” James said. “We had some defensive lows in the third quarter. We did not play a 48-minute game, and if one or two guys breaks down it breaks the whole team down.”
After trailing most of the first two-plus quarters, New Orleans suddenly surged in front with a 14-2 run ignited by Gordon, who hit a 21-foot jumper, a tough 7-foot fade in traffic and a 3 during the spurt.
New Orleans maintained its lead most of the fourth quarter and appeared in control when Dante Cunningham’s jumper made it 94-81 with 6:52 left. Instead, James led the Cavs right back into the game – and very nearly won it. The only other basket during James’ fourth-quarter surge was Matthew Dellavedova’s 3, set up by James on a crisp, cross-court pass.
James’ consecutive fast-break baskets — the second a reverse layup as he was fouled — cut the Pelicans’ lead to 98-97. Then James’ 17-foot step-back, followed by his driving layup around 7-footer Omer Asik, put Cleveland up by 3. The lead was still 3 after James’ free throws in the final minute, but Holiday hit his clutch three to force OT.
“That was a scary moment toward the end,” Gordon said.
J.R. Smith scored 18 points for Cleveland on 6-for-13 shooting from three-point range. Kevin Love had 15 points and 10 rebounds.
Tyreke Evans had 14 points and 10 assists, while Holiday finished with 13 points.
Pelicans Coach Alvin Gentry said the Pelicans were trying to set up a shot for Anderson on their final possession of regulation, but Cleveland’s defense denied that, so Evans instead passed to Holiday, who simply had to make a play.
“Right when he passed it to me, I already knew what I was doing,” Holiday said of his game-tying 3. “That’s pretty much what it comes down to, especially a game like this, making plays.”
Cavaliers: Coach David Blatt started Dellavedova in place of Mo Williams in hopes of establishing more of a defensive presence early and having Williams provide scoring off the bench. … Cleveland failed to outrebound an opponent for only the third time in 19 games. … Tristan Thompson had 10 rebounds, his career-high eighth straight game with at least 10.
Pelicans: Gentry made a change to his starting lineup, opening with Evans and Gordon in the back court and moving Holiday to a backup role. Holiday said he was fine with the move. … Because of various injuries affecting numerous players this season, New Orleans opened with its 14th different starting lineup in 20 games. … Gordon was 4-for-5 from three-point range.