This time, there would be no crumbling at the end against a team of playoff-tested veterans.
The New Orleans Pelicans fought the two-time defending NBA champion Miami Heat toe to toe for four quarters, finishing them off at the end for a 105-95 victory Saturday night at Smoothie King Center.
“It was defense,” said All-Star Anthony Davis, who scored 30 points, grabbed 11 rebounds and added three steals. “We rebounded. We limited our turnovers, and they couldn’t get out on the fast break. We controlled the tempo. It was a big win.”
The victory by the Pelicans (29-40) ended five consecutive losses to the Heat (47-21). It gave New Orleans victories in back-to-back games, coming after Friday’s impressive win at Atlanta in which they pulled away in the fourth quarter.
The loss was the fourth in five road games for Miami, which was coming off a home win against Memphis on Friday.
Davis paced 51.2 percent shooting by the Pelicans, who outrebounded Miami 38-33. More important, the Pelicans forced 15 turnovers and had just six themselves. It led to 21 fast-break points.
Things did get interesting at the end, although not hairy.
LeBron James sank a 3-pointer at 3:18 that started Miami on a 5-2 burst that brought it to 102-92 a minute later. But the Pelicans turned to their defense and denied the Heat the rest of the way.
After holding on in the third quarter to enter the fourth with a four-point lead, the Pelicans outscored Miami 11-6 through the first 4½ minutes of the quarter.
Then, with 7:49 left, a sequence of key plays began. Al-Farouq Aminu drove for a basket and an 87-78 lead, drawing a hand slap from Davis. Davis then blocked Chris Bosh’s shot.
After a driving layup by Austin Rivers, Davis was fouled on the next possession by Chris Andersen while shooting a 20-footer. The ball banked in. Davis sank the free throw to “MVP!” chants, and New Orleans had a 92-78 lead with 6:23 to go.
The Pelicans held a 74-66 lead at 2:35 of the third quarter after Evans’ lean-back jumper over Shane Battier.
Less than a minutes later, at the 1:44 mark, James drove and stepped on Tyreke Evans’ foot, then fell to the floor. He remained in the game.
Davis dunked a missed driving attempt by Rivers to keep the lead at eight at 76-68. Miami’s Ray Allen then turned the ball over with 34 seconds left.
But Michael Beasley sank a jumper 6 seconds later after a block by James, then the Heat got the ball back with 3.9 seconds left. After a long pass, Allen hit a 3-pointer from the left corner with 1.1 seconds left to bring Miami to 76-72 when the quarter ended.
It was a quarter in which the Pelicans went at the rim, and that opened things up. Aminu got a dunk after Babbitt drove and passed to him cutting to the basket. Then, Babbitt sank a 3 off a pass from Evans on the break.
When Evans drove and passed to Davis for a left-handed layup, New Orleans led 64-57 at the midway point. The lead reached 67-59 on Roberts’ 3-pointer off a drive and dish by Evans 43 seconds later.
The Pelicans held a 45-43 lead at the end of the first half in which the focus was defense. The Heat made their final six shots to stay close.
Miami shot 51.4 percent, but the Pelicans disrupted its offense enough to cause 11 turnovers. New Orleans shot 43.2 percent but had only four turnovers. Davis helped carry the offensive load with 14 points.
The Pelicans seemed to be taking control with a 6-2 burst that gave them a 38-30 lead at 4:18, with Evans’ drives the catalyst.
But James dunked on an out-of-bounds play that started an 8-0 run to tie things up, with Beasley getting a dunk and a fast-break jumper in the run.
Brian Roberts sank a 3-pointer over Mario Chalmers with 1:22 showing, then Davis dunked Evans missed drive for a 43-38 lead with 46.1 left.
Allen countered with a 3 from the corner when James drove and sucked in the defense. And, after Davis’ 15 footer with 18 seconds showing, James made a step-back baseline jump shot with 0.3 showing to bring Miami within two points of the lead.
The first quarter ended tied at 21 after the Pelicans battled back from a 10-2 deficit just over three minutes into the quarter.
The Pelicans made eight of their last 17 shots and held Miami to 4-of-12 shooting after they fell into the early hole.