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Pelicans end Hawks’ 19-game win streak

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NEW ORLEANS – New Orleans Pelicans forward Anthony Davis was supposed to be nursing a sore groin. It’s scary to think what might have happened if he were completely healthy.

The third-year All-Star brushed aside his aching body to score 29 points and grab 13 rebounds — his 26th 20-point, 10-rebound double-double of the season — and guard Eric Gordon added 20 points as the Pelicans snapped the Atlanta Hawks’ NBA-best, 19-game winning streak with a 115-100 victory Monday night at the Smoothie King Center.

“It was good to end their streak, but it was more about us,” said Davis, who missed one game due to the groin strain but showed he was in the flow by scoring 19 of his 29 points in the first half as the Pelicans took a 55-42 lead. “It felt good to snap their 19-game winning streak, but it felt great just to see how we played.”

The Pelicans (26-22) played well in every phase. In winning for the sixth time in seven games, they limited the best 3-point shooting team in the league — the Hawks came in shooting 39 percent from long range — to just 7 of 22 shooting (32 percent). The Hawks (40-9) had made at least 10 3-pointers in 14 of their previous 15 games.

Offensively, Pelicans guard Tyreke Evans had 12 assists for the third time in four games, including six in the third quarter when the Hawks had cut a 14-point deficit to 70-63. Reserve center Omer Asik added a season-high 17 rebounds, contributing to New Orleans’ 52-32 advantage on the boards.

“They had us on our heels from the very beginning,” said Atlanta coach Mike Budenholzer, whose team had won 33 of its previous 35 games, including 12 straight against Western Conference opponents. “I thought New Orleans was good on both ends of the court and, defensively, we couldn’t get into a rhythm.

“Give our guys credit for a lot of good work over the last month. Tomorrow we’ll get back to figuring out how we can improve and get better.”

Davis showed no ill effects from the nasty fall he took last Wednesday in a home loss to Denver. He soared high for dunks and blocked two shots, including a deep jumper from the left wing by guard Jeff Teague.

But New Orleans was particularly impressive moving the ball on offense. The Pelicans had 30 assists, and the starting backcourt of Gordon and Evans combined for 19. Gordon also made 7 of 11 shots, including 4 of 6 3-point attempts.

“He’s been playing out of his mind,” Davis said of Gordon. “Every time we need a big shot, he hits one. That’s what he can do. He’s a scorer, and we definitely try to look for him.”

Gordon said the key to ending the Hawks’ 19-game winning streak was chasing guard Kyle Korver, a 54-percent shooter from long range, off the 3-point line. Korver made both of his 3-point attempts, but that was far below his average number of attempts.

“When you see those guys win 19 in row, you’ve got to figure out a way to break their rhythm, so we tried to run them off the line,” Gordon said. “They’re the best 3-point shooting team in the league. We’re just in a comfort zone at home. We have to keep having fun.”

The Pelicans led by as many as 19 points, 103-84, with 4:57 left in the fourth quarter and coasted to the victory. The Hawks lost for the first time since a 107-77 defeat at the hands of Milwaukee on Dec. 26. Atlanta was led by guard Jeff Teague with 21 points, and Korver added 12.

“We knew we weren’t going to win every game the rest of the season, but we had a great accomplishment,” Korver said. “We won a bunch of games and we grew in confidence. We’ve grown in a lot of ways. There’s still a lot of work to be done.”

Davis said the Pelicans are just beginning to understand that themselves.

“We’ve just been playing together, sharing the ball and not caring who’s scoring and playing defense,” Davis said. “When we play like this, we’re a tough team to beat. We got to realize this is how we’ve got to play night in and night out.

NOTES: Pelicans PF Anthony Davis returned to the lineup after missing Friday night’s 108-103 victory over the Clippers with a strained groin. New Orleans coach Monty Williams said his third-year All-Star forward looked comfortable in practice Sunday. “He went through a full practice, talking trash, typical A.D. in practice with high energy and high everything, so we felt good about him playing,” Williams said. … Pelicans reserve C Alexis Ajinca of France has averaged nearly 15 points and 10 rebounds when he has played at least 20 minutes. “Now he understands he’s an NBA player and he just works on his game,” Williams said. “He could always shoot the ball. He got stronger this summer and worked on his conditioning.” … Atlanta coach Mike Budenholzer said winning NBA coach-of-the-month honors for two consecutive months is “a credit to our players. They’ve been great, and I think our coaching staff does an amazing job.”

Up to the minute news and reports from the news wire of The Sports Xchange.

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