NEW ORLEANS — Eric Gordon heaved up a desperate shot with less than 12 seconds to play Monday, its path stopped only by the floor to the right of the basket stanchion.
Once again, the Pelicans entered a fourth quarter with a comfortable lead on San Antonio.
And once again, the Pelicans couldn’t hold on.
San Antonio’s veteran presence – read that as Tony Parker and Tim Duncan – outdueled New Orleans’ roster of inexperience in the final 12 minutes and the Pelicans fell to the Spurs 102-95.
New Orleans had no answer for Parker and Duncan, who combined for 37 second-half points to pace the Spurs. Parker finished with a game-high 32 points and nine assists while Duncan ended with 21 points, seven rebounds and six blocked shots.
“Closing the game I thought we had some costly turnovers tonight,” New Orleans coach Monty Williams said. “We were playing out of the net so much against that team. They were able to set their defense.”
Just three weeks ago, the Pelicans were in a similar position, leading the Spurs by 10 points in the third quarter of that game.
But a Spurs run did in New Orleans that night, too.
This time, it was Parker’s constant poking and delivering inside of 10-feet that made a big difference.
“He was at the rim,” Williams said. “We didn’t want to give up 3’s. In a perfect world, you’d like to stop him from even getting close to the paint.”
San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich said Parker’s experience and knowledge of the game paid off down the stretch.
“That was a part of it,” Popovich said. “We started the sideline pick-and-roll. Tony pretty much carved them up. He and Thiago (Splitter) and then he and Timmy on the rolls and swings. That was experience.”
Anthony Davis finished with 17 points, 15 rebounds and four blocked shots, but went just 6 of 21 from the floor and was largely forced into ill-fated jumpers.