Miller’s late surge helps Pelicans edge Hawks
NEW ORLEANS — Atlanta Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer vowed before Monday night’s game against the New Orleans Pelicans to send everything, including the kitchen sink and various movable appliances, against Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins in an attempt to force someone other than the Twin Towers to beat the Hawks on Monday night.
Unfortunately for Budenholzer, Darius Miller and E’Twaun Moore, a couple of role players with humble resumes, filled up the basket with wide-open jumpers and drives into the lane to lift the Pelicans to a 106-105 victory at the Smoothie King Center.
Miller hit four 3-pointers in the final 5:45 and scored 14 of his 21 points in the fourth quarter, and Moore posted a team-high 24 points to lead New Orleans (8-6) to its fifth victory on the last six games. Atlanta (2-12) lost despite limiting Davis and Cousins to a season-low combined 19 field-goal attempts.
“All of us get a lot of open shots because they demand so much attention,” said Miller, acquired by the Pelicans in the offseason after playing two years in Germany. “We just got to knock them down. I got into a rhythm tonight — a lot of open shots. It was just a good night.”
Cousins added 22 points, 16 rebounds and seven assists, but it was a struggle for him and Davis all night as the Hawks continued to blitz each player when he got the ball. The defensive pressure resulted in another shaky ball-handling performance for Cousins, who had seven of New Orleans’ 19 turnovers and now has an NBA-worst 75 turnovers in 14 games.
The Pelicans, who committed 23 turnovers in a 111-103 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers on Saturday night, had 13 turnovers in the first half, a big reason they trailed 50-45 at intermission.
“We’ve got to continue to explore why we’re doing that in the first half,” New Orleans coach Alvin Gentry said. “It takes away our rhythm and takes away the flow of our offense. It’s really impossible for you to defend live turnovers, and we had so many of those tonight we can’t get back and defend.”
Atlanta, which has come up short in close games all season, led 101-97 with 2:35 left when Tyler Cavanaugh hit an open 3-pointer, but Miller responded with a 3-pointer from the right wing and another from the top of the key with 52 seconds left to put New Orleans on top 106-104.
The final 3-pointer was especially damaging because Taurean Prince had batted the ball away from Pelicans guard Jrue Holiday 25 feet from the basket, but the ball somehow found its way to Miller in the left corner.
“That was lucky,” Miller said. “I don’t know how it got to me, but I was ready to shoot it.”
“Prince hit it out my hand straight to Darius,” Holiday said. “It was God. Darius was right there for the knockdown. It was lucky, but it worked in our favor.”
Kent Bazemore made one of two free throws to trim the deficit to 106-105. The Hawks had a chance to take the lead, but Dennis Schroder threw the ball away on the next possession. The Pelicans had the ball with 3.2 seconds left, but Davis threw the ball away, giving Atlanta one last chance with 0.7 of a second remaining. But Bazemore’s 3-point attempt fell short.
Atlanta was paced by Bazemore with 22 points. The Hawks placed six other players in double figures, including Cavanaugh (16), guard Marco Belinelli (14) and forward John Collins (12) off the bench. The Hawks stayed in the game by making 17 of 36 from 3-point range (47.2 percent).
“A lot of positives from the way the guys competed against a good team and two of the premier big guys in the league,” Budenholzer said. “Going into the game we felt we needed our bigs to make threes and spread them out. (On defense), everybody was active. It started with the big guys, but our perimeter guys were trying to get in there and dig balls out to make it difficult on Davis and Cousins. They’re a tough cover.”
NOTES: Pelicans PG Rajon Rondo, who missed the first 13 games while recovering from a core muscle injury, played five minutes against the Hawks. He scored on a baseline layup eight seconds into the game and finished with two points and two assists. ... New Orleans coach Alvin Gentry hopes Rondo’s playmaking ability will help the Pelicans cut down on their average of 17.6 turnovers per game. ... The Pelicans’ starters — particularly DeMarcus Cousins and Jrue Holiday — have been guilty of committing too many first-quarter miscues. “You just can’t make high-risk plays,” Gentry said. “We’re not Brett Favre. Let’s be Tom Brady. Let’s make the easy, simple ones.” ... Atlanta coach Mike Budenholzer said the Hawks have been playing better than their record indicates. “I think there’s a lot of things that have been positive, (we) just need those for the 48 minutes,” Budenholzer said.