ATLANTA — New Orleans rode another stellar performance by Anthony Davis, clutch free-throw shooting in the waning moments, and big three-point buckets by Luke Babbitt to a 111-105 win over the Atlanta Hawks on Friday.
It was the Pelicans’ second win over Atlanta this season. New Orleans defeated the Hawks 105-100 on Feb. 5 at the Smoothie King Center.
Davis led all scorers with 34 points, and added 11 rebounds. It was Davis’ 34 double-double this season. Tyreke Evans chipped in with 21 points, just one point shy of his average as a starter.
The Hawks were led by Jeff Teague, who scored 26 points, with former Louisiana Tech standout Paul Millsap adding 20.
“After the way we’ve lost games over the past couple of weeks, it’s just nice to get a win,” Pelicans coach Monty Williams said. “(Davis) got 34 (points) and 11 (rebounds), we shot 43 free throws, and that’s something we don’t take for granted.”
Williams lauded the play of Babbitt, as well as reserve guard Austin Rivers, who added 10 points, four assists and just one turnover.
“We had a number of guys step up tonight,” Williams said. “Austin had a change of roles tonight, not playing with the ball that much. And Luke, who didn’t know if he was going to play at all, was knocking down threes and attacking the basket and fighting on defense. All of that stuff is really important.”
The Hawks built their largest lead of the game 67-60 late in the third quarter after two free throws by Teague capped an 8-0 run. But the Pelicans narrowed the gap to 71-69, closing the period on a 9-4 run that was capped by a 3-pointer by Babbitt from the top of the key. It was the first shot he had taken all game, after not playing at all in the first half.
Babbitt gave the Pelicans the lead for good on the first shot of the fourth quarter, another 3-pointer, this time from the left wing. The shot ignited a 9-0 run that gave New Orleans a 78-71 cushion early in the fourth quarter after a dunk by Davis following an Atlanta turnover.
“Props to him for being able to come right into the game cold and being able to knock down the shot,” Williams said. “We’re going to need that every night. I can’t reiterate enough how proud I am of the way our team just continues to battle and play hard every night.”
Babbitt finished with 11 points, twice his season average.
“I don’t know if it’s just one specific play (that won the game),” Babbitt said. “We just continued to fight. Atlanta is a tough team, but we just continued to fight.”
“They ran some pick-and-rolls and collapsed our defense,” Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer said. “(Babbitt) was open. They deserve some credit for getting inside the paint and finding the open guy. Then he stepped up and made the shots.”
The Pelicans led by 97-87 with just three minutes to play after a follow-up dunk by Davis off of a miss by Babbitt. But Atlanta kept chipping away, with a little help from the Pelicans, and closed the gap to 107-103 with less than a minute to play.
New Orleans assisted by giving Atlanta three consecutive three-point play opportunities on three consecutive Hawks possessions. Teague went to the line with the chance to make it a one-possession game when his driving layup with :18 left made the score 109-105. He was fouled by Roberts on the play.
But Teague missed the ensuing free throw, Davis grabbed the rebound and went to the line to knock down two free throws after he was fouled with less than 10 seconds on the clock.
New Orleans was 8-for-8 from the free-throw line inside of a minute, and Davis’ last two put the win on ice.
“I can’t reiterate enough how proud I am of the way our team just continues to battle and play hard every night,” Williams said.
With both teams shooting poorly in the early going, New Orleans took an 8-7 lead midway through the first quarter after two free throws by Anthony Davis. The Pelicans went on an 11-4 run and pushed the lead to 19-11 after a couple of free throws by Evans.
Atlanta chipped away and cut the lead in half by the end of the first quarter — to 20-16 — when the Hawks closed the period with a 5-1 run, punctuated by a run out and dunk by Mike Scott following a New Orleans turnover.
The cold shooting by both clubs continued into the second quarter, but Atlanta eventually cut the lead to 28-27 after Shelvin Mack drilled the game’s first 3-pointer. But the Pelicans pushed their edge to 34-29 after Brian Roberts knocked down two free throws.
Atlanta closed the half on a 15-10 run to knot the score at 44-44 at halftime. The spurt was capped by another 3-pointer by Mack, this time with five seconds left on the clock.
PELICANS DAY SET AT AUDUBON ZOO: Pelicans Day at Audubon Zoo will be held Sunday from 1-3 p.m.
The event will feature appearances by Pelicans players, the Pelicans Dance Team and Pierre the Pelican and performances by the Pelicans Drumline and the Pelikids.