- Associated Press - Friday, February 23, 2018

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - Anthony Davis vigorously punched his arm through the air as the final horn provided a fourth straight triumphant ending to a fourth straight prolific performance. The All-Star then faced the exuberant New Orleans crowd with both arms raised and began exchanging high fives with beckoning fans along the edge of the court.

Davis had 45 points, 17 rebounds, five blocked shots and five steals, and the Pelicans beat the Miami Heat 124-123 in overtime Friday night.

In time, the loss of fellow All-Star DeMarcus Cousins could doom New Orleans as it tries to secure one of the final Western Conference playoff spots. But not if Davis can help it. He has scored no fewer than 38 points during New Orleans’ four-game winning streak and at least 42 three times.

“I’m just trying to do my part,” Davis said. “When Cous’ first went out, I was overthinking. I was trying to do stuff I normally wouldn’t do. And now I’m just playing - just playing basketball, playing with a lot of instincts, a lot of confidence and just trying to make the right play, whether it’s for me or my teammates.”

Goran Dragic scored 30 points and Dwyane Wade hit two runners to give the Heat the lead twice in the last 36 seconds of overtime, but Davis responded to the first with a layup as he was fouled, and Jrue Holiday answered the second with a runner in the lane with 7 seconds left.

Wade had one last shot for the win with Holiday defending him closely. It bounced off the rim to Josh Richardson, whose rushed put-back missed the basket as time expired in Miami’s third straight loss.

“It is a little bit frustrating and a little bit sad when you lose a game like that, but we still have enough energy and we need to battle until the end,” Dragic said. “We feel like we played a good game, especially on the road.”

Holiday finished with 29 points and nine assists, connecting with Davis on several alley-oop dunks. Ian Clark scored a season-high 21 points and Nikola Mirotic capped his 10-point, nine-rebound performance with a crucial 3 in overtime.

Hassan Whiteside had 19 points and 16 rebounds before fouling out in overtime when he hacked Davis on a put-back attempt. Davis hit both free throws to tie it at 117, and then gave New Orleans a brief lead with his fifth alley-oop dunk of the game on a fast-break lob from Holiday with 1:10 to go.

“Everybody in New Orleans and everyone in the basketball world knows that he is special,” Wade said of Davis. “The only thing we can do is try and make it tough on him, but if you try and make it tough on him he still is going to get 40 points.”

Wade had 16 points, while Richardson and Tyler Johnson each scored 15.

Neither team was able to build a double-digit lead during game which riveted a boisterous crowd with its fast pace and array of highlights on both ends of the floor. There were 13 ties and nine lead changes.

New Orleans scored 37 fast-break points. Davis threw down seven dunks, made clutch jumpers and connected on several shots while being fouled. He made 17 of 34 shots and 10 of 11 free throws.

“He’s raised his game to a level where he feels like, ‘This is what I’ve got to do for us to win,’” Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry said. “I don’t want him to feel like he has that kind of pressure on him, but if he’s going to play at that level, I think it’s great.”


Heat: James Johnson had 12 points and blocked two shots. … Dragic had nine rebounds and eight assists. … Miami finished with a 70-62 advantage in points in the paint. … Heat players wore black patches reading MSD in white to honor the victims of the shooting last week at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Coaches wore Stoneman Douglas lapel pins with the school’s symbol, the head of an eagle. “It’s an absolute honor for us to wear these,” coach Erik Spoelstra said. “I know I speak for everybody in that locker room and everybody in the organization - we are so very inspired by the leadership and courage and absolute fearlessness of the kids and young men and women. … Such a tragic event, but we hear their voices loud and clear, and we are behind them.”

Pelicans: Have won five straight overtime game and are 6-2 in overtime game this season. … Davis hit a 3-pointer, giving him a career-best 41 3s in a single season. … Walter Lemon Jr., signed to a 10-day contract on Wednesday, saw his first action in the second quarter.


Davis wasn’t the only one blocking shots for New Orleans. Emeka Okafor, now in his second 10-day contract after being out of the league for four-plus seasons, had five blocks to go with seven rebounds in a little less than 18 minutes.

“My role as of now is just to do all the little things, you know, play good defense, grab rebounds,” the 35-year-old Okafor said. “It feels great that we’re winning and I feel like I’m contributing in some form or fashion. … but I’m just falling back on my go-to of, when in doubt, play good defense and just rebound the basketball and run.”


Heat: Host Memphis on Saturday night.

Pelicans: Visit Milwaukee on Sunday afternoon.


More AP NBA: apnews.com/tag/NBAbasketball

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