NEW ORLEANS (AP) - Indiana’s Ian Mahinmi sat in front of his locker with a swollen right eye and a satisfied smile as he prepared to enjoy a well-earned postgame bowl of chicken and sausage gumbo.
While Mahinmi described the blurred vision he briefly experienced after being hit hard in the face in the first quarter, assistant trainer Carl Eaton cracked, “We’re going to hit him like that every game.”
Mahinmi scored 17 points - double his season average- to go with 10 rebounds and four blocked shots, and the Pacers posted a 91-86 win over a reeling New Orleans Pelicans team that lost Anthony Davis to a lower back bruise early in the game Friday night.
Mahinmi showed little interest in discussing his own production so much as the relentless team defense Indiana had to play to compensate for turning the ball over 25 times.
“Those road wins like that, when you turn the ball over 25 times and you’re still able to win, those are good wins,” Mahinmi said. “We played Pacers defense, and that’s what kept us in the game.”
Davis was hurt diving into the stands to stop a ball from going out of bounds on the defensive end. He went to the locker room soon after and never returned. He also left the locker room before it was opened to reporters and the Pelicans said they did not expect to have an update until Saturday.
Without Davis, the Pelicans shot 37.3 percent (31 of 83), including 9 of 29 from 3-point range.
“I like what we’ve been doing the last couple of weeks defensively,” said Mahinmi, who briefly went to the locker room to have his eye examined after it was hit in a crowd of players during the first quarter. “The offense is a work in progress. We’ve got to get better, but … we’re just trying to win games.”
C.J. Miles scored 15, hitting a running hook inside the final 2 minutes to help Indiana hold on, while Paul George added 13 points and Monta Ellis 10.
Tyreke Evans scored 27 for New Orleans, which has lost four out of five. Ryan Anderson scored 21 points and Jrue Holiday 15.
The Pelicans were clinging to a one-point lead when Mahinmi’s 4-foot hook with 4:46 left seemed to turn the tide. Mahinmi later added two free throws and Ellis hit a 14-foot fade to put Indiana up 87-82 with 2:45 to go.
After Miles’ late basket, New Orleans closed the game offensively with Holiday’s turnover and missed 3-pointers by Holiday, Eric Gordon - who was blocked by Ellis - and Alexis Ajinca.
“It was there. We just have to learn to finish out games,” Holiday said. “As a team, I think we are going to work on our scheme down in crucial situations.”
The teams combined for 41 turnovers and 97 missed shots. New Orleans was hurt by scoring only 10 points off of Pacers turnovers.
Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry applauded his team’s defensive effort, but added, “We have to convert. … We end up with 10 (points off turnovers), so that’s not very good.”
By contrast, the Pacers scored 18 points off of 16 New Orleans turnovers.
Initially, Davis’ injury didn’t slow New Orleans at all. The Pelicans scored 30 points in the first quarter, shooting 54.5 percent. Anderson, whose playing time increased because of Davis’ injury, scored 11 points in the quarter, hitting two of his first four 3-pointers.
The period ended with New Orleans holding its biggest lead, at 14, but the Pelicans’ offense all but disappeared in the second quarter, when they scored 13 on 5-of-19 shooting. That allowed Indiana to close the gap to 43-38 by halftime.
Pacers: Indiana has won nine straight against the Pelicans, including five straight in New Orleans. … The Pacers are 2-1 on their four game road trip. … The Pacers improved to 9-10 on the road. … The Pacers also outscored New Orleans 50-32 in the paint.
Pelicans: New Orleans fell to 7-9 at home, where they’ve lost three straight. … New Orleans plays its next three games on the road, where the Pelicans have gone 4-15 this season.
Pacers: Visit Houston on Sunday night.
Pelicans: Visit the Los Angeles Clippers on Sunday.
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