“I practiced on it (Tuesday), and I got hit on it, and Coach (Monty Williams) told me, ‘Let’s sit this one out.’ I’ll definitely play in the next one. I’ve had this injury before and I want to be careful with it. I want to be healthy for the season.” Tyreke evans, Pelicans forward, on the status of his sprained ankle
New Orleans Arena was all dressed up and buzzing, with 17,123 fans in the first game since undergoing $30 million in renovations. And so were the New Orleans Pelicans, with six new players, as they went against the two-time defending NBA champion Miami Heat on Wednesday night.
And the Pelicans put up an encouraging if not impressive battle against their formidable foes for three quarters. But then came the fourth, and that’s when the champion Heat showed up.
Miami went on an 18-2 run earlier in the fourth quarter in turning a five-point deficit into a route, and it closed out the Pelicans 108-95.
“They got open 3s, and we turned the ball over,” said Pelicans power forward Anthony Davis, who had 18 points and eight rebounds. “We had a couple of possessions where we settled for jump shots instead of attacking.”
It was the first loss of the preseason for New Orleans (6-1), which plays its last exhibition game at Orlando on Friday. Eric Gordon, with 19 points, led five Pelicans in double figures.
Miami was led by the usual suspects, with forward LeBron James scoring 27 and guard Dwyane Wade 25. The Heat outscored the Pelicans 31-13 in the fourth.
Once again, turnovers raised their ugly heads, with New Orleans getting 24 that led to 21 Miami points. Six turnovers came in the fourth quarter.
The Pelicans led 82-77 entering the fourth, but things already had begun to turn. Then the Heat pushed ahead behind backup point guard Norris Cole, who assisted a dunk to Chris Andersen and drove for two baskets, his second giving Miami the lead 84-82 at the nine-minute mark. It was the Heat’s first lead since 39-37 at 9:17 of the second quarter.
“It was just a preseason game, but we wanted to win, so it was time to put a couple of stops together,” Cole said. “They had the lead, but there’s not many situations we haven’t seen on this team.”
After the teams battled nearly evenly for 1½ quarters, New Orleans had gained breathing room in the third on 3-pointers by Ryan Anderson at 3:24 and Anthony Morrow at 1:42, as it appeared the Pelicans may hold on for a preseason victory that could have meaning heading into regular-season play.
The Pelicans began the game up for the challenges, going toe-to-toe with the champs from the outset for the first 7½ minutes. The teams played at a furious pace, with both shooting better than 60 percent and New Orleans taking a 21-19 lead.
From there, the Pelicans took off. The Heat began trapping the ball, and Jrue Holiday passed to Anderson for a 3-pointer at 4:12, and Anthony Morrow followed with one at 3:23 for a 29-19 margin.
Holiday got a three the old-fashioned way: a jumper and a foul. Then Jason Smith sank jump shots on consecutive possessions, and New Orleans had pushed the lead to 15 points, 34-19.
That got James fired up. He sank a 3-pointer, got a steal that resulted in two free throws with 1:106 showing, then dunked hard with 37 seconds left off a pass from Ray Allen, drawing boos from the Pelicans’ faithful. Andersen’s two free throws cut it to 34-28 at the end of the quarter.
Then it was Wade’s turn. With the Pelicans’ second unit in, Wade, guarded by second-year guard Austin Rivers, scored six points and assisted on a basket as Miami surged to a 39-37 lead a little more than two minutes into the second quarter.
However, Morrow hit a 3-pointer, sank three free throws after being fouled attempting a 3-point shot, and Brian Roberts followed with a 3-pointer that put New Orleans back in control 46-41.
The Pelicans maintained at least a five-point margin except when Miami closed to 53-51 with less than two minutes before halftime.
Again New Orleans fought back. Leading 56-51, Gordon drove for consecutive baskets. However, James dunked a lob from Chris Bosh, then Bosh sank two free throws. James, who had 18 points in the first half, then drove against Lance Thomas and was fouled for a three-point play with 1.5 seconds left.
That brought Miami to 60-58 at halftime, with the Pelicans shooting 50 percent and the Heat hit 53.8.
Evans misses sixth game
Guard/forward Tyreke Evans missed his sixth game since his left ankle was sprained in the Pelicans’ preseason opener Oct. 5 at Houston.
Evans said he expects to play in Friday’s exhibition finale at Orlando.
“I practiced on it (Tuesday), and I got hit on it, and Coach (Monty Williams) told me, ‘Let’s sit this one out,’” Evans said. “I’ll definitely play in the next one. I’ve had this injury before and I want to be careful with it. I want to be healthy for the season.”
Before the game, a maintenance crew of 10 was moping the new refurbished court, which was slippery. They mopped for about 45 minutes, ending 15 minutes before tip-off.
The Pelicans will host an open practice featuring Pelicans players and coaches from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the New Orleans Arena.
Coach Monty Williams will wear a microphone during the practice.
Doors open at 10:30 a.m. for the free event. fans should enter at the northeast entrance next to the Pelicans Shop. Tickets to upcoming games will be available for purchase.