It was probably appropriate that center Jason Smith hit the final free throw of the New Orleans Pelicans’ 111-106 overtime victory Wednesday against the Detroit Pistons.
Smith had made his point all game. Matched against Detroit center Andre Drummond, 6-feet-11, 279 pounds, Smith, a slender 7-footer, had 22 points and a career-high 16 rebounds.
“I was really just trying to be physical,” Smith said. “They have a great, physical team. We knew it was going to be a battle tonight. … The key was to do the early work, beat them to the spot and get position.”
Coach Monty Williams said: “He had a career night, played well on both ends of the floor and just didn’t give in.”
Power forward Ryan Anderson, who also was physically overmatched playing against Pistons big power forward Greg Monroe, scored 22, too, including some big 3-pointers down the stretch that keyed the victory.
The duo led six Pelicans in double figures, including guard/forward Tyreke Evans (14 points, seven rebounds, whom the team said would miss one to two weeks with a sprained left ankle but was cleared to play just before game time. And Al-Farouq Aminu had 11 points and 14 rebounds, as the Pelicans won the rebounding war 51-43.
Although Detroit (10-13) beat up the Pelicans (10-10) in the lane, outscoring them 56-38, New Orleans made nine 3-pointers to the Pistons’ five and 26 free throws to Detroit’s 17.
The Pelicans ended a three-game home losing streak and have a 1-2 record on this four-game homestand.
They play the Memphis Grizzlies on Friday night.
Detroit lost its third in a row after winning four straight.
Ryan Anderson gave the Pelicans a 105-103 lead with a 3-pointer from the right corner at 1:12 of overtime.
“I just continued to stay aggressive,” said Anderson, who shot 4-of-12 on 3-point attempts but was 2-of-3 in overtime. “Jrue (Holiday) drew the defense in on that one (from the corner), and I just got an open shot.”
Ten seconds later, Holiday then picked the pocket of Pistons point guard Brandon Jennings, was fouled by Jennings and and made one of two free throws, nudging the lead to three.
Williams said that was perhaps the key play of the game.
“That’s not something you coach,” he said. “That’s just a guy fighting to win.”
The Pelicans then got what they wanted when Josh Smith attempted an ill-advised 3-point shot and missed. Then, New Orleans received a gift, when Monroe, a former Helen Cox High School standout, missed two free throws with 25.3 seconds left.
Anderson made two free throws with 21.4 seconds left, Evans sealed the victory with two more at 11.3, and Smith did he honors with the final one with 3.3 seconds left.
Anderson had hit a 3-pointer that tied the score at 101 at 2:52 of overtime.
With the score tied at 96 with 48.3 seconds left in the fourth quarter, Smith blocked a driving shot by Josh Smith, leaving five seconds on the shot clock. Jennings missed a shot against defense by Holiday with 40.4 left.
However, Anderson missed a 3-point try with 26.5 showing. Then Jennings missed two 3-point attempts in the game’s last eight seconds, and it was on to overtime.
Anderson had sunk a 3-pointer with 2:14 left that gave New Orleans a 96-92 lead before baskets by consecutive baskets Josh Smith tied it up.
When Holiday sank a 3-pointer with 2:43 showing, it gave the Pelicans an 81-69 lead. They headed into the fourth leading 83-74 but scored just 13 points in the quarter.
They had led 57-51 at halftime.
“We lost the fourth quarter, but we continued to fight, and we got the win,” Williams said.
Tyreke Evans, who was expected to miss one to two weeks with a sprained left ankle, came into the game with 4 minutes, 3 seconds remaining in the first quarter. He finished with 14 points.