- Associated Press - Friday, December 23, 2016

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - Anthony Davis and the Pelicans only looked as if they were in trouble when Justice Winslow’s emphatic dunk put the Miami ahead by 14 points late in the third quarter.

“We had a lot of miscommunication on defense, but we had a whole other quarter left,” Davis said. “We always play to the end, no matter what the score is. Coach just told us, ‘We got to make a run,’ … We ended up pulling it off.”

Davis had 28 points, a career-high 22 rebounds and four blocked shots, and New Orleans strung together runs of 15-0 and 12-0 down the stretch to beat the Heat 91-87 on Friday night.

Davis was at his best after halftime, when he led the comeback with 19 of his points and 14 of his rebounds.

With coach Alvin Gentry opting to play Davis often at center as part of a small, quicker lineup down the stretch, Davis was able to assert himself under the basket on both ends to reach a new high in rebounds, which included seven on the offensive end,

Jrue Holiday added 22 points for the Pelicans, who shot only 37 percent, but scored their last 37 points inside the final 16 minutes.

“When you don’t shoot well, you’ve got to play well defensively and I think down the stretch that’s what we did, and we started making shots, too,” Davis said. “We’ve got to realize that our defense fuels out offense, so when we play well defensively and into guys and being physical and rebound the basketball, then we’re able to get out and run and it kind of gets our energy up.”

Langston Galloway added 11 points, hitting a pair of 3s during New Orleans‘ late charge.

Goran Dragic had 23 points for Miami. The Heat scored just 19 points during the final 15:21 of the game and committed six of their 15 turnovers in the fourth quarter.

“I feel like we controlled the game for 35 minutes and then they came out really aggressive and they played excellent defense,” Dragic said. “We didn’t execute and in the end we fell short. No excuses. We need to do more.”

Hassan Whiteside had 10 points and 18 rebounds for Miami. Winslow scored 12 points, but none after his dunk, missing his last four shots.

Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said his team’s inability to keep the lead “really started with our offense - it really got stagnant.”

“We’ve been in so many of these close games. Our guys really care,” Spoelstra added. “It’s kind of disappointing that we are not able to get the result.”

DAVIS IN THE MIDDLE

With coach Alvin Gentry opting to play Davis often at center as part of a small, quicker lineup down the stretch, Davis was able to assert himself under the basket on both ends to reach a new high in rebounds, including seven on the offensive end.

“He did a much better job on the offensive boards tonight,” Gentry said. “It wasn’t so much the defensive rebounds because he’s always come up with those.”

TOUGH SLOG

Stylistically, the game was marred by stretches of disjointed, stagnant play by both teams, resulting in possessions that ended with missed, low-percentage shots or turnovers.

The Heat never trailed by more than five points and led throughout the second and third quarters, going up 68-54 with 3:22 to go in the third period.

Gentry then called timeout and New Orleans scored the next 15 points during the next six minutes.

Davis hit his second 3 of the game during the run, cutting Miami’s lead to 68-64 as the third quarter ended, and New Orleans went up 69-68 on Solomon Hill’s 3.

Miami briefly retook momentum with a 9-0 run, fueled by James Johnson’s 3 and his jumper.

At that point, New Orleans was shooting worse than 34 percent, but still in the game, trailing 77-69 with half the quarter left. The Pelicans scored 12 straight to pull back in front, and Galloway’s 3 a few possessions later made it 88-83 with 1:13 to go.

TIP-INS

Heat: Tyler Johnson and James Johnson each scored 11 for Miami. … The Heat have lost five straight on the road. … Miami lost despite outshooting New Orleans 41.4 percent to 37.1 percent and outrebounding the Pelicans 59-52.

Pelicans: Reserve F Terrence Jones, who averages nearly 11 points, was out sick. … Top draft choice Buddy Hield played 18 minutes. He made one shot - a 3 - on eight attempts.

UP NEXT

Heat: Host Oklahoma City on Tuesday night.

Pelicans: Host Dallas on Monday night.


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