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Evans, Holiday lead Pelicans past Blazers 110-108

(Photo by Layne Murdoch/NBAE via Getty Images)

By GUERRY SMITH

Associated Press

NEW ORLEANS (AP) Tyreke Evans hit the final shot. Jrue Holiday made every big play before that to put the New Orleans Pelicans in position to win.

Evans sank a mid-range, pull-up jumper with 1.2 seconds left, and Holiday scored 15 of his season-high 31 points in the fourth quarter as the Pelicans beat the Portland Trail Blazers 110-108 on Monday night.

Holiday, acquired in a draft-night trade with Philadelphia last June, connected on seven shots in the fourth when the score was tied or New Orleans led by two or fewer points. He also tied his season high for assists with 13.

"I was just being aggressive," he said. "They were backing off on the screen-and-roll where I had the guard behind him, and I had a lot of confidence in my shot. I just felt good and it came at a good time."

Evans' big basket came right after Portland's Damian Lillard, who has hit several game-winners this season, made a contested 3-pointer to tie the score at 108. New Orleans, which won its fourth in a row at home, never trailed in the second half but never led by more than five in the final 10 minutes.

Anthony Davis added 27 points, 12 rebounds and five blocks. Evans had 20 points, getting his first eight baskets in the lane before making his first jump shot at the end.

The opportunity came after Holiday pushed the ball up the court instead of calling a timeout when Lillard's 3-pointer rolled in with 10.9 seconds left.

"It really kind of gets them off guard," Holiday said. "Sometimes when they celebrate like that, we'll go right back down in 2 or 3 seconds. That's definitely big for us."

Davis then forced LaMarcus Aldridge into a tough shot from the baseline that bounced off the top of the backboard and came after the buzzer anyway.

"I thought they were going to try to give him the ball and hit a jump shot," Davis said. "I just tried to play good defense on him and put my hands up and make him shoot real high."

Lillard scored 29 points and Aldridge had 28 for Portland (24-7), which lost its second straight.

"It's a lot of stuff," Lillard said. "This was just a game that we couldn't pull out our best abilities. We just need to learn from this game and use it in a way to win our next one."

Holiday answered every Portland challenge down the stretch.

When the Blazers scored the first seven points of the fourth to tie the score at 89, he sank a 3-pointer. Holiday then hit an outside shot and a buzzer-beating driving bank to keep the Pelicans ahead 98-95.

After Nicolas Batum missed a free throw that would have given Portland its first lead since 33-32 in the second quarter, Holiday sank a floater to make the score 100-98.

After Aldridge missed an outside shot with the score tied at 100, Holiday sank one from just beyond the free throw line.

"He was excellent in the fourth quarter," Evans said. "He was in control. That's what he's here for."

The Blazers, who have struggled defensively lately, allowed the Pelicans to hit 53.9 percent of their shots. Portland entered having allowed an average of 111.8 points in its last four games.

"There are a lot of causes," Blazers coach Terry Stotts said. "It's penetration, it's not helping out one another, it's transition."

The Pelicans limited the Blazers to 44.3 percent shooting, and Davis was a major factor. He blocked two fallaway attempts from Aldridge before stifling him on the final shot.

The Pelicans dominated the first half statistically - shooting 52.2 percent to the Blazers' 38.3 percent and outrebounding them 28-19 - so New Orleans' 56-49 lead at the break felt as though it should have been larger.

New Orleans outrebounded the Blazers 18-8 in the first quarter, had a 10-0 advantage in second-chance points and held Lillard to one basket. The Pelicans also committed only one turnover, yet were up only 26-21.

That advantage disappeared quickly when Dorell Wright and Lillard sank consecutive 3-pointers to put Portland ahead 33-32 early in the second, but Evans scored six in a row to start a 12-0 New Orleans run.

NOTES: Pelicans guard Eric Gordon missed his third consecutive game with a bruised right hip. ... Pelicans center Jason Smith sat out with a left shoulder injury. He had missed three games with a bruised right knee before returning against Houston on Saturday. ... New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton sat courtside a day after his team clinched its fourth NFL playoff berth in the last five years. ... The Pelicans' Ryan Anderson had made at least one 3-pointer in all 20 games he played in this season and 26 in a row dating to last season.

Updated December 31, 2013

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