NEW ORLEANS -- Tyreke Evans had been driving to the basket all night against the Portland Trail Blazers -- his first 16 points came at the end of aggressive moves into the lane -- so with the game on the line, there was little reason for the powerfully built, 6-foot-6 guard to back off now.
But Evans did just that, and his fadeaway 14-foot jumper over the outstretched arms of 6-foot-1 Mo Williams with 1.2 seconds left gave the New Orleans Pelicans a rousing 110-108 victory over Portland Monday night at the New Orleans Arena.
"He was backing up, and I knew time was ticking," Evans said of Williams. "I hit him with a few in-and-outs, and as he backed up, I just let it fly. I got hit in the head a couple of plays (earlier), so my head was a little spinning, but I made the shot, and that's all that matters."
The Blazers (24-7), who lost for the third time in five games, had to feel as though their heads were spinning. Less than 10 seconds earlier, point guard Damian Lillard did what he does best, nailing a 28-foot, 3-pointer that rattled around the rim before falling in to tie the score, 108-108, with 10.9 seconds remaining. Lillard led the Blazers with 29 points.
During a previous timeout, Pelicans coach Monty Williams had instructed his team to push the ball up court in case Portland tied the game with a 3-pointer. That advice paid huge dividends.
"When we are in that situation, it is good to just go and not give them a chance to set up and put defensive guys in, switch and take you out," Williams said. "I felt we had some advantages because we had our offensive guys in. We think we have two-way players, so we feel we have an advantage at times. Sometimes we just say 'go.'"
"We made a good shot, they made a good shot," said Portland coach Terry Stotts. "It was a tough one to lose at the end."
The Blazers had one final shot, but power forward LaMarcus Aldridge (28 points) got the ball on the right side against power forward Anthony Davis and could only spin and force an 18-footer that hit the top of the backboard as time expired.
Even without shooting guard Eric Gordon, who missed his third game with a sore right hip, the Pelicans (14-15) have the talent to push the pace. Point guard Jrue Holiday exploded for 15 of his season-high 31 points in the fourth quarter, and Davis, who had 27 points, 12 rebounds and five blocks, was on the receiving end of many of Holiday's 13 assists.
Holiday and Davis worked the high pick-and-roll screen to perfection, with the most important sequence coming with less than three minutes left when Holiday threw what looked like a badly timed lob pass only to see Davis swoop in for a layup that put New Orleans ahead, 104-100.
"Thank God," Holiday said. "Anthony has a 12-foot wing span. He reached out his arm and saved me."
With the Pelicans clinging to a 94-92 lead, Holiday scored New Orleans' next eight points. Williams then nailed a 3-pointer from the right corner to cut New Orleans' lead to 106-105 with 1:50 left, and Holiday again responded with a 20-footer from the left wing -- his 15th point of the fourth quarter -- to give the Pelicans a three-point lead with 54 seconds left.
Holiday said the Portland defense -- with Aldridge shadowing Davis on the pick and roll -- forced him to look for his shot at the end of the game.
"I was just being aggressive," Holiday said. "I kind of felt like they were backing off on the screen and roll, and the guard was behind me, and LaMarcus had to play either me or AD. I can knock down the 15-foot jump shot sometimes, so just let it ride."
NOTES: Pelicans C Greg Stiemsma, sidelined since Nov. 12 due to a left knee sprain, returned to action Monday. Stiemsma played in just eight games, averaging two points and 4.6 rebounds, but at 6-foot-11 and 260 pounds, he adds beef to the lineup. ... Pelicans coach Monty Williams, who was a Blazers assistant coach when PF LaMarcus Aldridge arrived in Portland, said Aldridge has become "maybe the best power forward in the game." He advises second-year Pelicans PF Anthony Davis to watch Aldridge closely on tape. ... Williams said Portland PG Damian Lillard has ridiculous range on his jump shot. "He'll shoot it from 5 feet behind the 3 (point arc)," Williams said. "He's one of the few point guards who can make that shot 28 feet from the basket. He shoots it with confidence." ... Pelicans G Eric Gordon sat out again due to a right hip bruise. New Orleans F/C Jason Smith missed the game with a left shoulder injury.