NEW ORLEANS — New Orleans coach Monty Williams could barely force a smile, even after the Pelicans posted their season-high fifth consecutive win.
While his words spoke of the Pelicans’ 102-95 victory over the Utah Jazz on Friday night, his focus was several feet away in the locker room, wondering about the health of All-Star forward Anthony Davis, who left the game early in first quarter with an ankle injury and did not return.
In Davis’ absence, forward Tyreke Evans scored 22 points and guard Anthony Morrow had 20 in a 102-95 victory over the Utah Jazz. Evans also had a career-high 15 assists.
“Well, we won the game and that’s what I told our guys,” Williams said, adding he did not know whether Davis would be ready to play in a road game against San Antonio on Saturday night. “Different guys stepped up again and our defense was a lot better in the first half than the second for sure, but it was good enough to win.”
Forward Al-Farouq Aminu added 13 points for the Pelicans, who have their first five-game winning streak in two years. Guard Austin Rivers and forward Darius Miller scored 12 points each and center Alexis Ajinca, filling in for Davis, had nine points and 10 rebounds before fouling out late in the fourth quarter.
Even without Davis, the Pelicans shot 50.7 percent from the field, making 36 of 71 attempts.
“I didn’t see (Davis) at the time (he left the court),” Morrow said. “I noticed he wasn’t around. We’ve been through this before. We can’t dwell on it.”
The Jazz, who have lost three consecutive games and 13 of their past 15, were led by guard Gordon Hayward. He overcame a shaky first half to finish with 21 points.
Center Derrick Favors added 18 points and 11 rebounds for Utah. Point guard Trey Burke and forward Marvin Wiliams contributed 12 points each.
“I thought the guys played hard,” Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin said. “They made shots. We turned the ball over 19 times with 33 points.”
The Jazz trailed 72-66 entering the fourth quarter but cut the deficit to 80-79 with 4:16 remaining, holding the Pelicans scoreless for more than three minutes. New Orleans answered with a Miller jumper and Evans 3-pointer after a Richard Jefferson miss to give the Pelicans an 85-79 lead with 3:03 remaining.
Ajinca’s 3-point play with 56.7 seconds remaining boosted the Pelicans’ lead to 90-83. New Orleans converted 13 of 16 free throws in the final 56 seconds.
“We just have to continue to fight and close those games out,” Burke said. “At the end of the day, this is our job. We aren’t getting discouraged.”
With Davis’ early exit and guards Eric Gordon and Brian Roberts already sidelined, Evans and Morrow were able to pick up the scoring void in the first half. Evans scored 13 points and Morrow eight in leading the Pelicans to a 43-38 halftime lead.
In Davis’s absence, Favors took advantage of a more favorable matchup with Ajinca, scoring 10 points and grabbing seven of Utah’s 15 rebounds.
“This is our team,” Evans said. “We go in every day and work hard. We follow the plays we are supposed to follow and we are winning our games.”
Hayward struggled in the half, going 1-of-6 from the field and scoring five points. He missed all five of his shots in the first quarter.
After Davis’ injury, the Jazz ended the first quarter on a 15-10 run to take a 22-20 lead. New Orleans committed two turnovers and missed four shots on its first six possession after Davis went down. Favors scored eight points in the quarter.
But New Orleans rebounded in the second quarter, putting together a 19-9 run to take a 39-31 lead with less than four minutes left. Evans scored nine of his 13 first-half points during the run.
Utah committed three consecutive turnovers late in the second quarter, beginning with a steal and ending with a charge. The Pelicans turned two of those into four points.
NOTES: Pelicans F Antonio Davis was injured with 8:17 remaining in the first quarter and New Orleans leading 10-7. His departure left the Pelicans with nine available players, the same number in a 98-96 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday. … Hornets G Eric Gordon was listed as a probable starter but did not dress. … The absence of Davis, Gordon and Roberts represented a combined 46 points per game. … Utah overcame a 16-point deficit to defeat the Pelicans 111-105 in November in Salt Lake City. It is the largest deficit the Jazz has overcome this season in a victory. … G/F Gordon Hayward could be become the second player in Jazz history with 16-plus points, five-plus rebounds and five-plus assists in a season. The only player in franchise history to achieve that feat is Hall of Famer Pete Maravich, who played all but 17 games with the Jazz while the franchise was in New Orleans.
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