Clark’s long-range shooting helps Pelicans beat Heat
MIAMI — After two losses that started their four-game road trip, the New Orleans Pelicans turned into a dominant force when they reached Florida.
The Pelicans closed the trip with a 109-94 victory over the Miami Heat on Saturday night. The performance followed a double-digit win on Friday at Orlando.
Ian Clark scored a season-high 19 points to the lead the Pelicans. Clark went 7 of 11 from the field and 5 of 7 on 3-pointers.
DeMarcus Cousins finished with 16 points, seven rebounds and eight assists, and Anthony Davis scored 17 points for the Pelicans (17-16).
“It’s good for us, especially going to the (Christmas) break,” Clark said. “Obviously, you want to keep it going and avoid any slippage. Tonight was a building block.”
In Clark’s reserve role, he knows that the Pelicans’ first scoring options go through Cousins and Davis. But Clark capitalized in his 22-minute performance against Miami.
“I’ve been in a similar situation throughout my career, being able to be ready when my number is called,” Clark said. “To go out and try to help the team any way possible.”
The Pelicans scored 13 straight points and built a 17-point lead midway through the third quarter. Clark’s two 3-pointers and Davis’ triple keyed the run. Davis’ layup with 3:35 remaining capped the surge and gave the Pelicans an 81-64 lead.
“I thought we did a good job offensively of finding the open guy,” New Orleans coach Alvin Gentry said. “They’re a very determined team and I thought we did a good job of matching their energy.”
Clark’s fifth 3-pointer with 8:41 remaining in the fourth quarter gave New Orleans its first 20-point lead at 92-71.
The Pelicans were 15 of 25 on 3-pointers and Miami made 10 of 32 after going 16 of 24 on Friday against Dallas.
“We were able to get them off the 3-point line because they have shot the ball exceptionally well from 3, especially in the last few games,” Gentry said.
E’Twaun Moore scored 15 points for the Pelicans. Jrue Holiday and Darius Miller also finished in double figures for New Orleans with 13 and 12 points, respectively.
Tyler Johnson scored 20 points for Miami (17-16).
“It wasn’t for a lack of our guys wanting or even putting effort,” Miami coach Erik Spoelstra said. “It just wasn’t one of our better nights. You have to give credits to New Orleans for that.”
Heat starting point guard Goran Dragic returned from a three-game absence and finished with 13 points. Dragic was sidelined because of a left elbow strain.
“I never want to use excuses,” Dragic said. “I was out there and I tried to do my best. We had a bad game. The second half was too much. They were making every shot, our defense wasn’t there. We didn’t play well offensively. It was kind of a perfect storm for them.”
Miami reserve forward James Johnson also played after missing three games because of left ankle bursitis. Johnson was limited to eight minutes and scored seven points.
Three-pointers from Dante Cunningham, Jameer Nelson and Moore keyed a 15-3 run that helped the Pelicans erase a 3-point lead midway through the second quarter. Moore’s triple with 3:42 left in the quarter capped the surge and gave the Pelicans a 50-41 lead.
Dragic’s two free throws with 48 seconds left cut New Orleans lead to 54-53 before Moore’s jumper with 17 seconds left gave the Pelicans a 56-53 lead at halftime.
NOTES: The Pelicans allowed less than 100 points for the second consecutive game. New Orleans began its games in Florida with a streak of 12 consecutive games allowing more than 100 points. ... New Orleans finished with a season-high 10 blocked shots. The Pelicans blocked eight shots in two previous games. ... MRI and X-ray results on G Dion Waiters’ sprained left ankle were negative, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. Waiters injured the ankle in the first quarter of Miami’s 113-101 victory over Dallas on Friday night and didn’t return. His return to the lineup is uncertain. ... PG Goran Dragic’s availability was uncertain until his work out before tipoff. Dragic missed the previous three games because of a left elbow strain.