Anthony Davis scores 29 as Pelicans nip Orlando

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Anthony Davis’ hard work during the summer is starting to pay dividends.

Davis scored 29 points including 11 consecutive free throws to lead the New Orleans Pelicans to a 99-95 preseason win over the Orlando Magic on Wednesday night at the Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena.

It marked the third narrow win in five days for the Pelicans who beat Houston by one on Saturday and Dallas by two on Monday.

The Pelicans did it with the strong effort by Davis and clutch free throw shooting down the stretch. They also did with a second-half effort that helped erase some bad opening half memories for coach Monty Williams.

“The first half, there wasn’t much (that I liked),” Williams said. “We were trying, but not at the level we demand from our players in practice and in games. In the third quarter we played hard, we defended a little bit and we took care of the ball.

“The first half, we had 13 turnovers, the second half we had three. We have to play at a certain level every night, especially when you’re not making shots. We want to build some corporate equity with our team because we haven’t done anything.”

Davis did his part to help with the equity with his strongest effort in the three games thus far. He hit on 9-of-20 from the floor, added 11 more from the free-throw line, grabbed nine rebounds, and swatted away four shots in 31 minutes.

The Pelicans 2012 first-round pick said even though it’s preseason, he wants to help send a message to the rest of the league.

“First of all, it starts with what I’ve been working on all summer with some of the coaches,” he said. “I’m trying to send a message and we are as a team as well. We want to be known as one of the top teams in the West. I’m using this time to learn how to play with all the new guys we’ve got. We’re trying to come together as a team.”

Davis’ best effort came in the opening 6½ minutes of the third quarter. He scored 13 points, grabbed two boards and blocked a shot as he helped the Pelicans turn a six-point halftime deficit into a 13-point advantage, their biggest lead of the game.

“We started slow the first two quarters and they were kind of bullying us around,” Davis said. “So we wanted to start fast in the third. We brought our own juice, feed off our own energy. I tried to attack wherever there was an opening.

“And when we saw that we were in the penalty situation early, everyone started attacking. I’m confident in my game and all the work I put in this summer. There’s no point in putting in all the work over the summer if you’re not going to use it.”

With four minutes left in the game, it appeared the Pelicans could coast home with a win. They led 91-78 after a 12-2 run over a four-minute period. But Orlando came storming back behind the play of center Nikola Vucevic. He scored eight of the Magic’s 11 consecutive points to shave the lead to a basket with 1:33 remaining.

Austin Rivers hit two free throws four seconds later but the only scoring for the next 1:11 was another Vucervic basket.

But the Pelicans got four free throws from Brian Roberts and two more from Anthony Morrow in the final 19 seconds to hold off the Magic and move to 3-0.