Tyreke Evans still wasn’t 100 percent Sunday.
The Pelicans swingman listed himself at “around 85 percent” before warning reporters that they may want to step back a bit during postgame interviews.
A stomach virus and sore throat caused Evans to miss the Pelicans’ road win Friday night against Detroit. But Evans made a big splash in his return, finishing with a team-high 23 points, seven assists and seven rebounds in New Orleans’ 100-92 victory over Orlando.
“It felt good to be back,” Evans said. “I just wanted to make sure my wind was there and run the floor. During shoot-arounds, I got a little extra work in with the coaching staff to try to get my wind back up. I went out there and did what I do best and tried to attack the basket.”
Evans, who was cleared to play moments before tipoff, finished with his third highest scoring output of the season, falling just shy of the 25 he scored in a December win over Sacramento and 24 in a December win over the Knicks.
Sunday’s outing was Evans’ second best all-around performance as a Pelican. He had 12 assists and six rebounds in that win against Sacramento.
But this was his best showing at home.
“He has that ability,” coach Monty Williams said. “He just has to continue to improve. The one thing he does better than most guys in the NBA is get to the basket. Now he has to understand when he goes and three or four other guys show up, he has to find (his teammates).”
Evans entered the game with 5:12 left in the first quarter and wasted little time making his mark. His steal at 3:22 led to an Eric Gordon 3-pointer that gave the Pelicans a 16-14 lead.
But he saved his best for the fourth quarter, when he was 5-of-8 from the floor and scored 13 points.
“I thought I had to take over and make it to the basket,” he said.
Evans scored 10 straight points for the Pelicans in one stretch of the fourth, including a three-point play on a reverse layup. His scoring binge helped the Pelicans stretch their lead to 83-75.
“His ability to get to the rim affected the game,” Orlando coach Jacque Vaughn said. “They had a little stretch where they featured him, and he answered for them.”
Evans recorded his seventh assist with 2:42 left, lobbing an alley-oop to teammate Anthony Davis, who finished strong.
“We are very good when he plays like that,” Davis said. “Tyreke is a big part of our team. He is able to score the ball and find guys. He draws a lot of attention and draws double teams. We have a lot better team when he is on the floor with us.”
To that point, Davis’ alley-oop was the game’s biggest highlight. But that was erased just over a minute later when Davis threw down a thunderous slam over former LSU star Glen “Big Baby” Davis.
“That was crazy,” Evans said. “Everybody knows (Anthony Davis) can jump. I don’t know what ‘Big Baby’ was thinking, but he is going to be on ‘SportsCenter’ tonight. That’s all I can really say.”
Evans, who had just one turnover, played just over 27 minutes. He said he is taking medicine and getting better.
The Pelicans play back-to-back road games Tuesday and Wednesday at Cleveland and Minnesota.
Williams is hoping for more nights like Sunday from Evans.
“To have the kind of line he had is a great complement to AD and (Gordon),” he said. “For us to have a chance to win, you have to have three guys to step up and have numbers like that.”