NEW ORLEANS — Anthony Davis appeared down to Hornets coach Monty Williams, the stomach bug that haunted him all day playing a vengeful game of one-up on the rookie forward.
But Davis had the last laugh, one-upping the illness and, in so doing, tipping New Orleans to an 87-86 win over the Boston Celtics on Wednesday night.
“I was going to put him back in around the seven-minute mark, I think, in the fourth and I looked at him and I said, ‘Are you OK?’ ” Williams said. “And he just looked at me with sad eyes and he was like, ‘I’m good coach.’ I just said, ‘Man, I can’t do that to you.’ The parent in me or the guardian in me takes over at times. Then I saw him on the bench kind of excited and getting into a little bit.
“The last shot he made was his first game-winner and it comes on a night when he’s sick and puking and not feeling his best,” Williams said. “Kudos to him.”
Davis finished with only nine points and eight rebounds, but he’ll likely never forget the night he put in his first NBA game-winner.
New Orleans (23-46) nearly lost the game in the first 26 minutes. Boston (36-31) built a 13-point lead as the Hornets failed to keep the Celtics from scoring. Boston shot 60 percent in the first half and forced 12 Hornets turnovers, which it turned into 17 points.
And then everything changed. A 9-0 New Orleans run begat a 31-9 Hornets run and, with 6:15 to go in the game, the home team owned a 78-69 advantage.
“I just thought that we messed the game up,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. “I thought that we thought that we were going to win the game when we got the lead.”
The game was far from over, however.
A 10-0 Boston run put the Celtics back in the lead. After the teams traded shots, Paul Pierce’s 26-foot 3-pointer gave the Celtics the lead and, at 84-81, it seemed the Hornets punch had been taken and Boston was back on the move.
New Orleans’ deficit ballooned to 86-81 before an Eric Gordon jumper got it going again.
Ryan Anderson, who led New Orleans with 21 points, hit 2 of 3 free throws. A Boston timeout led only to a Pierce missed jumper, setting up the frenetic finish that could catapult Davis’ confidence.
Gordon isolated for the shot, driving the lane to his right. But his high kiss of the glass hit off the rim and Davis, jumping over Kevin Garnett and Jeff Green, tipped the ball in the basket for the game-winning points.
“We called a ply for Eric to go to the basket and I knew everybody was going to help,” Davis said. “He’s a fantastic scorer and when he got to the basket, I was just following like I was supposed to do and got the layup.”
The Hornets finished the game shooting just 43.7 percent. But they outrebounded the Celtics 45-28 and held Boston to just four offensive rebounds. New Orleans won in spite of turning the ball over 20 times, which Boston turned into 26 points.