West fuels comeback from Pelicans’ 16-point lead
New Orleans Arena is mighty swanky now, but it apparently is much the same for David West.
West, Indiana’s power forward who was an All-Star during his playing days in New Orleans, made four big free throws down the stretch, as the Pacers took a 95-90 victory in the Pelicans’ season-opener Wednesday before a sellout crowd of 17,803.
West, who won last year’s game with shots in the lane over Anthony Davis, backed down Lance Thomas as was fouled with 1:06 left in the game. He sank both free throws. Then, after Davis’ shot was blocked by West, George Hill sank a 3-pointer for an 89-85 bulge.
Eric Gordon drove for a layup with 17.7 seconds left. However, with the Pelicans having to foul, West was sent to the free-throw line and again made both.
After entering the fourth quarter holding on by a 66-61 margin, the Pelicans led just 74-71 with 6:38 left. Paul George tied it at 76 and Lance Stephenson hit a 3-pointer from the right corner that gave Indiana its first lead, 79-77.
But Gordon started driving, and got two free throws and a layup around a dunk by Hibbert, tying the score at 81. Davis put New Orleans ahead with a driving shot, and Holiday hit a jumper after George missed a 3-point try. With 1:58 left, the Pelicans were leading 85-81.
The Pelicans, keyed up by opening night and the excited crowd, had taken control in the first half with defense, hustle, intensity and shooting. However, Indiana came back after halftime by playing Pacers basketball.
Getting the ball in to Hibbert and getting passes back out to the perimeter, the Pacers began hitting shots. George sank a 3-polinter, and Hill drove for a basket and made a 3-pointer off a pass from Hibbert, and Indiana had cut a 16-point lead just after halftime halftime to 52-44 just two minutes, 12 seconds into the third quarter.
Holiday almost single-handedly staved off the run, making four free throws. Then he rebounded a missed George free throw and brought the ball up for a free-throw line jumper.
Indiana had come to 58-53 when Davis and the Pacers’ Ian Mahinmi had a jump ball. Davis won the tip, and Holiday beat C.J. Watson to the ball and muscled in for a layup. On back-to-back possessions, Arinze Onuaku later muscled in for a basket, and Davis tipped in a shot for a 66-58 margin at 1:18.
It was like a big fight from the beginning. After a feeling-out in the early going like two boxers, the Pelicans took it to the Pacers and gained a 15-7 lead at the 5:25 mark of the first quarter that prompted a timeout by Vogel.
West had backed down Davis and scored over him at the 7:51 mark, bringing Indiana to 6-5.
That seemed to get Davis going. He answered with jump shots on consecutive possessions around a Pacers shot-clock violation caused in large part by Holiday’s defense on point guard George Hill. Then, with 5:38 showing and New Orleans leading 12-7, Davis blocked a 12-foot attempt by West, leading to a 3-pointer by Gordon. Timeout, Pacers.
Half a minute later, however, Davis picked up his second foul, and Stiemsma replaced him. However, Evans and Holiday hit baskets and Gordon drove then hit a jumper, and it was 24-14 with 1:18 left, and the quarter ended that way.
With the starters on the bench, the second team was able to hold the rope, and New Orleans clung to a 28-21 lead after Hibbert sank a free throw. Then Davis re-entered, coming in with Arinze Onuaku. Gordon soon followed.
The Pelicans immediately went on a 9-0 run capped by a lob to Davis from Roberts, who appeared to be going up for a shot. Davis caught the ball high above the rim and slammed it through, exacting a loud reaction from the crowd. A minute before that, Davis had soared after getting a pass from Gordon, and was fouled by Hibbert, his third, taking him out of the game.
Then, with 3:46 showing, Davis answered a 3-pointer by George by hitting a long jumper from the corner, keeping the Pelicans’ ahead by 41-26.
George sank another 3-pointer at 2:14 that pulled Indiana to 43-33, but New Orleans turned to its defense. Aminu got in the passing lanes for a steal, pushed the ball up court and passed to Gordon cross-court for a 3-pointer. Then Stiemsma’s defense against West forced a miss, and Holiday, using a high screen, sank one, and it was back up to 16: 49-33.
The half ended with the Pelicans ahead by a 50-36 margin. They had held Indiana to just 35.3 percent shooting.
, had come up with 11 turnovers that led to 18 points and outrebounded the Pacers 21-15, getting seven offensive rebounds.