NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry got ejected, Anthony Davis struggled to get rebounds and it was just the Pelicans' luck that Clippers guard Chris Paul would return from a three-game absence in New Orleans.
Yet a Pelicans squad that couldn't do anything right early this season overcame it all.
Davis highlighted a 20-point performance with a soaring, one-handed alley-oop dunk during a pivotal fourth-quarter spurt, added a critical steal in the final minutes, and the suddenly surging Pelicans beat Los Angeles 102-98 on Wednesday night.
"We're just maturing as a team," said Davis, whose team has won three straight and four of five. "We're trusting each other. We're playing for each other ... and we're just locked in more down the stretch."
Paul, who'd been sidelined by a sore left hamstring, scored 21 points, but couldn't lift the Clippers out of a funk that has seen them lose four straight.
Paul played 30 minutes while on a minutes restriction.
"Given my minute restriction and stuff like that, we had to think long-term," Paul said. "All in all, I think we're going to be OK. ... At the end of the day, we want to be healthy at the right time."
Marreese Speights, whose 11 points included a vicious driving dunk over Tyreke Evans, had a chance in the final seconds to tie the game with a straightaway 3-point attempt. It rimmed out and Davis tipped the ball to Pelicans guard Jrue Holiday.
Austin Rivers scored 22 points for Los Angeles, including a late 3 to tighten the finish, and DeAndre Jordan had 25 rebounds to go with 13 points.
Despite playing center instead of power forward, where he's played much of the season, Davis didn't have his usual double-digit rebound totals. But he had two blocks and three steals, none more important than when he tipped Jordan's outlet pass to himself near the Clippers' basket and immediately converted a short one-handed floater to make it 101-93 with 1:41 left.
"Our season is in jeopardy throughout this stretch," Davis said. "We just want to come out and win knowing that our goal is the make the playoffs and we're trying to do whatever we have to."
Clippers: Guard J.J. Redick, who's averaged 15.4 points this season, missed his second straight game with a sore left hamstring. Rivers said Redick has "looked good" running and shooting, but wasn't quite ready to play in New Orleans. ... Rivers said Jordan was fortunate to have been uninjured in a car accident before the Clippers' departure for New Orleans on Tuesday. He then joked that he still fined Jordan for being late and also fined Paul, who fetched Jordan after the wreck. Rivers added that he's been in the NBA so long that when he hears a player is late because of a traffic accident, he's inclined to believe it's a made-up excuse, but added that Jordan had photos to prove it.
Pelicans: Holiday had 11 points and nine assists. Buddy Hield scored 17 points, while Evans added a season-high 12 points in his sixth game back from a right knee injury. ... With Davis at center, New Orleans' pair of 7-footers, Omer Asik and Alexis Ajinca, didn't play.
New Orleans played more than half the game without Gentry, who was ejected while arguing over a three-shot foul called against Holiday as he defended Paul on the perimeter. Paul appeared to draw contact by swinging the ball laterally through Holiday's outstretched hand, then quickly tossed up a shot as official Lauren Holtkamp blew the whistle. Holtkamp called the first technical on Gentry and fellow official Kane Fitzgerald called the second.
Top Pelicans assistant Darren Erman took over for Gentry after that.
Afterward the game, Gentry said he had plenty to say if anyone in the media was willing to reimburse him whatever the NBA would fine him.
Holiday said he was "not really sure the refs knew what they were doing."
Davis said Erman and other assistants "did a great job" and that the ejection "definitely fueled us."
Clippers: Visit Houston on Friday.
Pelicans: Host New York on Friday.
Posted on Thu, December 29, 2016
by By BRETT MARTEL, AP Sports Writer