NEW ORLEANS -- Out of the corner of his eye, New Orleans Pelicans coach Monty Williams saw it. His team trailed the Cleveland Cavaliers by 12 points with 4:44 left Friday night, and the disbelieving Pelicans fans in New Orleans Arena were bailing early.
"The fans are leaving -- that kind of stuff -- and it rubs you the wrong way," Williams said.
The parking lot brigade may have learned a lesson. Down 93-81, the Pelicans outscored Cleveland 23-7 down the stretch, including a go-ahead, 3-pointer from the left baseline by guard Eric Gordon with 31.7 seconds left, to defeat the Cavaliers 104-100 for their third consecutive victory that got them back to .500 for the season (6-6).
Williams, who notched his 100th career victory in three-plus seasons in New Orleans, said he was buoyed by his young team's resolve not to surrender.
"I just remarked to the guys that you never give up on a game," Williams said. "You're going to have games like that in the NBA where you're not making shots and things aren't going your way."
During a timeout, point guard Jrue Holiday took over the huddle and yelled, "This is where we grow up."
The Pelicans ripped off nine straight points, with forward Anthony Davis getting a dunk and tip-in and Holiday adding a 3-pointer from the top of the key to fuel the rally.
Then, with Cleveland up 95-90, forward Ryan Anderson nailed a 3-pointer from the right wing and Davis tied the game, 95-95, by tipping in guard Tyreke Evans' missed layup with 1:25 left.
With the Pelicans trailing 98-97, Gordon, who had missed his first four 3-pointers of the game, found himself open on the left baseline and nailed it over the outstretched arms of ex-New Orleans guard Jarrett Jack. That put the Pelicans ahead for good, 100-98, with 31.7 seconds left.
"That's a tough play (to defend)," said Gordon, who tied Evans with a team-high 19 points. "You've got AD (Davis) going to the basket and Ryan on the opposite wing, and now my man is trying to stop AD. Jrue made a good pass, and I saw Jarrett coming right at me, but you've got to take that shot."
The Cavaliers still had a shot, but Kyrie Irving, who led all scorers with 22 points, drove into the lane from the right wing only to get into a forest of arms, especially those belonging to Davis. Irving went up strong and there was contact, but there was no call on the missed layup.
"Whether it was a foul or not, I don't know," Cleveland coach Mike Brown said. "I've got to go back and watch the tape. We didn't settle for jump shots all the time. We just didn't finish."
Evans and Holiday hit four free throws in the final 19.3 seconds to secure the victory.
"We were just locking down on defense and we made some big plays offensively, but the key was definitely stopping the ball," said Holiday, who had 15 points and 11 assists. "We knew how tough Kyrie is when he gets to the basket because he's got a lot of power. But we just locked down in the last five minutes."
"Jrue is one of our leaders," said Davis, who finished with 17 points and 13 rebounds. "He was telling us we have to grow up, and that's exactly what we did. We stayed the course and stayed with the game plan and got the win."
Brown said the Cavaliers' 20 turnovers -- which led to 21 points -- and allowing the Pelicans 19 offensive rebounds killed his team's chances. The Cavaliers lost for the seventh time in nine games and fell to 4-9 on the season.
NOTES: Cleveland rookie SG Matthew Delladova made his first NBA start after coach Mike Brown thought he played hard in a 98-91 home loss to Washington on Wednesday night. "I know for sure we didn't play hard against Washington until I sat the whole starting five out and put the next five in," Brown said. "The bottom line is I'm trying to establish a culture here, and I want to hold guys accountable." ... Second-year SG Dion Waiters came off the bench for the Cavs, who had lost six of their previous eight games. ... The Cavs are 10th in the NBA in field goal defense (.440), which Brown says is more important to him than points per game or steals. ... Pelicans F Ryan Anderson was 10 of 16 from 3-point range in the previous two games. "Ryan's not even in shape yet," New Orleans coach Monty Williams said. "He's not huffing and puffing, but he's not in the groove that he needs to be in. He's never afraid to shoot. I love that." ... With 17 blocks in his previous two games, Pelicans F Anthony Davis is turning heads. "I'm not surprised because he does that in practice," Williams said. "I don't play one-on-one with him anymore because I want to keep my confidence up. We just want him to be a late jumper." One of Davis' best blocks against Utah on Wednesday was a spread-eagle block of a 3-point attempt by Gordon Hayward. "That's what he did in college," Williams said. "It's amazing how he can recover to get to a smaller guy and block the shot."