NEW ORLEANS — It took Ryan Anderson awhile to find his timing, but it wasn’t too late for the Pelicans.
Anderson hit two big 3-pointers and sank two free throws in overtime, pacing New Orleans to a 111-106 win over a pesky Detroit team.
His eight points came after his potential game-winning shot glanced off the rim, handing the Pistons a chance to steal a win in a game the home team led for all but nine minutes.
“After the air ball he shot, I didn’t like that because I know he can make that shot,” Pelicans Coach Monty Williams said. “Then he comes back and knocks ‘em down like nothing ever happened and that’s his mentality. I don’t want to mess with that.”
Now, for the fourth time in the past six seasons, the Pelicans are at .500 20 games into the schedule. In two of the previous three times that has happened, they’ve made the playoffs.
But they’re not thinking about that just yet.
They’re just happy to be 10-10 right now considering that potential All-Star forward Anthony Davis is out several more weeks with a broken hand.
In Davis’ absence, it took a collaborative effort to hold off Detroit (10-13), which New Orleans had down by double digits five times, including twice by 12 points.
Anderson’s 22 was buoyed by a season-best night for Jason Smith, who put in 22 points and a career-best 16 rebounds battling Westbank native Greg Monroe.
“Coach is going to put us in the right positions to really succeed and I think that for me I just have to continue to work hard in practice to get better, really focus in on the defensive side,” Smith said.
Just as important for New Orleans was Tyreke Evans, who as of Monday was set to miss 1-2 weeks with a sprained left ankle. Wednesday morning, the guard/forward worked out one-on-one after shoot around and felt good enough to go.
He ended up pitching in 14 points and seven rebounds in 24 minutes off the bench.
Williams afterward was impressed with the youngster.
“That says a lot about not just his toughness, but about his willingness to give it up for the team,” Williams said. “I don’t think many people knew that about him when was out at Sac. You don’t play in a game like that – he’s sore – but you don’t play in a game like that after five days unless you really care about your team.
“And to be able to make plays for us, hit two free throws in overtime, played pretty good defense, that says a lot about who he is.”
All of that was nearly for naught, however, as New Orleans nearly threw away a win.
After leading by 12 with 1:52 to play in the third quarter, Detroit put the Pelicans on their heels with a 12-0 run that began with a Rodney Stuckey turn-around jumper with a minute-and-a-half to go in the frame.
Kyle Singler’s free-throw with 8:44 to go in the fourth quarter tied the game at 83. New Orleans quickly went on a 5-0 run, but could never push it beyond that.
Anderson’s 3-pointer with 2:14 to play put New Orleans up 96-94 but then the Pelicans went cold. Smith missed a layup while Jrue Holiday’s jumper wasn’t true. Meantime, Josh Smith’s jump hook pulled Detroit to within 96-94 and then his runner tied it up with 1:19 to go.
The Pistons missed two shots before turning it over on a shot-clock violation. That set up the Pelicans with a possible two-for-one possession, but Anderson’s 3-pointer missed the mark.
Detroit had possession to end the game, but two shots fell harmlessly away, setting up Anderson’s overtime heroics.
“I’ve had plenty of bad shooting nights, so for me, just keep taking shots, keep shooting confidently,” Anderson said. “... Hopefully the important ones will drop and tonight they did.”