James, Miami roll to 107-88 victory
MIAMI — A serious injury to leading scorer Ryan Anderson, getting stranded for two days because of weather issues in Indianapolis, and consecutive losses to Eastern Conference powers — it’s been a rough few days for the Pelicans.
A trip to Miami was an improvement, weatherwise, but that was about it. The Pelicans lost to the two-time reigning NBA champion Heat 107-88 Tuesday night at AmericanAirlines Arena.
The Pelicans led by as many as 11 points in the third quarter but couldn’t sustain their advantage.
“We have to do a better job of competing with the elite teams,” Pelicans forward Anthony Davis said. “In the second half, we took too many jumpers, stopped attacking the basket.”
Davis had a stellar game overall with 22 points 12 rebounds, two blocks and three steals. He had 10 points, five rebounds, two steals and two blocks in the first quarter, but he had only six points in the second half.
“(The Heat) probably had more focus on him in the second half,” Pelicans coach Monty Williams said. “In the first half, he was getting anything he wanted. We were defending and giving them only one shot. (Davis) was running, and we were attacking.”
While Davis was slowing down in the second half, LeBron James was heating up.
The Heat star, who was being guarded by Al-Farouq Aminu, scored 16 of his 32 points in the third quarter, when Miami erased a Pelicans 11-point lead and took control of the game. Miami outscored New Orleans 31-22 in the third, when James made 6-of-8 from the floor, including 2-of-3 on 3-pointers, and 2-of-2 on the foul line.
Heat guard Dwyane Wade also hurt the Pelicans with 22 points, eight rebounds and eight assists.
The Pelicans (15-18), who entered the night three games out of a playoff spot in the Western Conference, return home for Wednesday’s game against the Washington Wizards.
New Orleans overcame a scoreless first half by All-Star point guard Jrue Holiday — he missed all three of his shots — and still led 49-43 at the break.
Holiday, who entered Tuesday averaging 14.8 points, finished with just four points and continued his recent slump. He now has scored in single figures in three straight games.
“Guys are going to have rough games,” Williams said. “(Holiday) is playing the same way he did when he had 31 (points) and 13 (assists) against Portland.
“I think he has to be more assertive and go after it more on offense. But the thing that sets him apart is his defense, and he has to do a better job of running our team on the defensive end.”
Holiday failed to take advantage of Heat backup point guard Norris Cole, who started in place of Mario Chalmers, out with an Achilles tendon injury.
“Sometimes your shot doesn’t fall,” said Holiday, who missed four of his six shots but had seven assists to go with four turnovers.
“I tried to attack the basket. Sometimes the calls don’t go your way. Scoring can be hard. I tried to penetrate and make plays for everyone else.”
Pelicans 7-foot-2 center Alexis Ajinca, who was coming off a career-high 17-point game Saturday against the Pacers, also failed to produce much on offense. He also had four points.
Anderson, having a career year with a 19.8-point average, could miss a month of action based on other players who have suffered a herniated disc.
The Pelicans are 12-10 with Anderson this season and 3-8 without him.
“You don’t replace 19 points and a guy who stretches the floor,” Williams said. “Losing Ryan makes you readjust your thinking about your team.
“And yet, when a guy is lying on the floor, you are thinking about him and his family. I’m glad it was just a herniated disk, because we all know it could have been a lot worse.”
One bit of good news for the Pelicans was the return of center Jason Smith, who had missed the previous four games because of a shoulder injury. He finished with eight points.
As for getting stuck because of the frigid weather in Indianapolis after Saturday’s loss to the Pacers, Williams minimized that as any kind of issue.
“We didn’t get to practice, but we also got days off,” said Williams, whose team just completed 10 road games out of the past 12. “It’s rare to get days off during the season.
“Everybody looks at things in the NBA as a tragedy. But nobody is going off to war. We just got delayed in the city. We stayed in a luxury hotel, ate good food and watched football and basketball.”