“We knew they were trying to get (Jefferson) the ball, and then they knew we were trying to get me the ball. We just tried to get him out of his comfort zone and make somebody else beat us.” ANTHONY DAVIS, Pelicans forward
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Anthony Davis and Al Jefferson are accustomed to being centers of attention.
The two shared the stage for much of Friday night’s game between the Pelicans and the Bobcats at Time Warner Cable Arena, trading baskets and rebounding the other’s missed shots.
But it was Jefferson who ultimately stole the show between the two big men, pushing the Bobcats to a 90-87 win behind a 33-point performance.
While Jefferson scored 11 points in the third quarter, he was silent for much of the fourth, failing to score until late in the quarter.
The Pelicans took advantage, overcoming a 13-point deficit to get within one point.
“It’s two big players on each team,” Davis said. “We knew they were trying to get (Jefferson) the ball, and then they knew we were trying to get me the ball. We just tried to get him out of his comfort zone and make somebody else beat us.”
With 2:39 remaining in the game, Davis swatted a shot Jefferson attempted over him. But Jefferson caught the rebound of his miss, his next shot successful as Davis fouled him. Jefferson’s free throw sealed a three-point play that gave the Bobcats an 82-78 cushion.
On the next possession, it was Davis that drew the foul from Jefferson on a made jumper to pull within one point again. A 3-pointer from point guard Brian Roberts a few possessions later tied the game at 84 in the final minute.
Fouled by Davis, Jefferson pushed the Bobcats back up by one, making the second of two free throws. Despite three missed free throws by Bobcats point guard Kemba Walker in the waning seconds of the game, the Bobcats were able to hold on for the win.
“Shots weren’t falling for us and it was difficult,” said Roberts, who finished with 20 points. “We just came up a little bit short.”
Davis’ play paled in comparison to Jefferson’s down the stretch. Davis had eight second-half points to Jefferson’s 15. As Jefferson’s scoring kept the Bobcats in control, the Pelicans (23-31) fell flat for much of the second half, trailing by nine at the end of the third quarter. New Orleans is 6-25 when trailing after the third.
Pelicans coach Monty Williams wasn’t overwhelmed with Jefferson’s second half.
“He took 30 shots and scored 30 points,” Williams said. “I don’t know, I don’t think that’s efficient. I thought we did a better job on him in the second half. In the first half, he was tremendous. He got where he wanted to go. I could blame it on our execution, but he’s a really good player.”
Though Jefferson’s performance down the stretch helped seal the game for the Bobcats, the duel between he and Davis was equal at the start.
While Jefferson snagged five rebounds and accounted for 14 of the Bobcats’ first 16 points, Davis hit four of his first five shots, tallying eight points and four rebounds in the first quarter.
Charlotte got out to an 11-point lead with Davis and Jefferson both on the bench for most of the second quarter. Both checked in with six minutes left in the half, Jefferson the first to score and Davis following suit on the next possession.
The Bobcats took a 43-32 lead into the half with Jefferson leading all scorers in points (18) and rebounds (7).
Scoring just 32 points in the first half didn’t bode well for New Orleans, and Williams said it was one of the worst halves the team has played this season. The Pelicans are 6-24 when scoring less than 100 points. The Bobcats have held opponents to fewer than a 100 points 36 times, which ranks third in the league.
The Pelicans won six of the 10 games entering the All-Star break, including their last one, but after Friday’s loss to the Bobcats, the picture has shifted from a team that had momentum to one that has lost four of their last five games.
With the next game also on the road against the Wizards, hopes for making the playoffs in the competitive Western Conference are glum.
“It’s tough,” Davis said. “We gave ourselves a couple chances to win.
We just couldn’t capitalize, but we fought hard and played well. It’s on to the next one.”