NEW ORLEANS — Monty Williams sat down in the post-game interview room Wednesday, head down, eyes staring at the microphone.
It was the look of a man whose team just lost, one that had given up another lead to a woeful Utah team with one win coming into Wednesday.
And maybe that’s exactly what would have happened if not for an addition to the team that Williams didn’t have use of a week earlier when his Pelicans dropped a sure win after blowing a 16-point second-half lead to the Jazz.
But Wednesday night, Williams had Ryan Anderson, a smooth-shooting bench player who does more than spell a starter for several minutes.
Anderson finished with 19 points, hitting four 3-pointers, including two in a 40-second span of the fourth quarter, and the Pelicans held off the Jazz this time, winning 105-98 at the New Orleans Arena.
“Ryan just gives us a dimension, not only does he shoot the ball well, he can rebound on the defensive end,” Williams said. “He fights for us.”
With all due respect to Anthony Davis, who once again flirted with a triple-double (22 points, nine rebounds, eight blocks), Anderson is giving the Pelicans (5-6) a boost that opens the floor for whomever he’s playing with at the time.
Anderson missed the first nine games of the season with a toe injury. He only returned to the active roster Saturday.
The biggest beneficiary might be Tyreke Evans, who finished with 13 points against the Jazz (1-12).
It was those two who combined to take a precarious 73-71 lead early in the fourth quarter and lengthen it to 14 points.
Evans’ driving layup counted when Utah’s Jeremy Evans was called for goal-tending. After an Alec Burks turnover, Evans responded with a fast-break layup. Evans then came up with a steal and Anthony Morrow hit the second of two free-throws to push the lead to 78-71.
Another Morrow shot, this time a 3-pointer, gave the Pelicans an 81-71 lead and then Anderson finished the run with back-to-back 3-pointers. Utah never threatened again.
“Me and Tyreke coming off the bench, we have to bring a lot of energy and efficiency and we just have to really play smart and play aggressive down the stretch,” said Anderson, who in two games is 16 of 25, including 10 of 16 from 3-point range. “Our job is to come in and help that starting group if they’re flat or if they don’t come out as hot.”
While Evans is showing signs of life, it’s Anderson who is opening the floor for his teammates.
“It makes all of our jobs a lot easier,” Davis said. “Teams have got to respect him. He can put the ball on the floor as well, so just being able to open up the lane for guys to drive and find other guys. That’s what he brings to the floor.”
Said Utah’s John Lucas III, “You can’t give that guy an inch of space because he has a clip on him. He can really shoot the ball.”
And now the Pelicans have won two in a row after dropping three straight, a stretch that included losing to then-winless Utah.
After scoring in the 100s for the second consecutive game, Williams might now be learning that he has a team more suited for offense than defense, the side of the ball he has preached since becoming New Orleans’ coach in 2010.
“I don’t think I’ll ever walk away from the defensive focus because I just believe that’s how you win games,” Williams said. “Having guys who can make plays on the offensive end, that should help our defense and convincing our guys of that is something I have to do a better job of.”