NO ‘TANKS’: Holiday Lifts Pelicans Past Knicks, 99-91

Credit the New Orleans Pelicans for one thing: with the opportunity to “tank” their remaining games (a.k.a., lose on purpose) to improve their chances for a higher pick in the 2016 NBA Draft lottery this summer, the Pelicans are still “playing to win” — even when some of their very own fans secretly would like to see them have an opportunity to draft one of the better college basketball stars that will be in this year’s upcoming crop of NBA rookies.

Returning from a two-game absence because of a toe injury on his left foot, Pelicans guard Jrue Holiday took over a tight game in the final minutes, scoring 6 points during a 9-0 run that gave the Pelicans a 99-91 victory over the visiting New York Knicks last night at the Smoothie King Center in downtown NOLA.

With a four-point lead to begin the fourth quarter, the Knicks entered the court on a mission to regain momentum after a disastrous third quarter. Carmelo Anthony hit a jumper to bring the Knicks within two, 66-68. Following a free throw from Kendrick Perkins, Arron Afflalo nailed a three pointer to tie the game at 69.

After the two teams traded baskets and the Knicks tied the game at 75, Perkins converted a pair of free throws while Tim Frazier added a basket to put the Pelicans up 79-75.

Following a jumper from Afflalo, Holiday hit back-to-back baskets plus a free from Ajinca to give the Pelicans an 84-77 cushion.

Mar 28, 2016; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Pelicans guard Jrue Holiday (11) drives with the ball against the New York Knicks during the second half of a game at the Smoothie King Center. The Pelicans defeated the Knicks 99-91. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

The Knicks, however, responded with an 8-0 run to take their first lead of the quarter and their first lead since leading early on in the third quarter.

Down one with 2:59 remaining, Babbitt earned a trip to the charity stripe and converted on a pair of free throws that began a 9-0 run for the Pelicans.

During the run, the Pelicans played exceptional defense, crashed the boards and stepped up big offensively. Holiday scored eight of the Pelicans nine points during the run, converting on four free throw attempts and two jump shots to give the Pelicans a 93-85 lead.

With less than a minute to play, the Knicks cut the Pelicans lead to as low as six points before Toney Douglas hit six clutch free throws to seal the victory for the Pelicans.

For the game, The Pelicans (27-46) finished the game at 43 percent off 32-of-75 shooting from the floor, 42 percent (8-of-19) from three-point range and 73 percent (27-of-37) from the charity stripe in the game. New Orleans outrebounded New York, 47-42, outscored the Knicks in fast break points (18-2) and committed fewer turnovers (14-13).

Four Pelicans finished in double figures. Toney Douglas finished with 16 of the Pelicans 37 bench points. Luke Babbitt recorded 14 points while Dante Cunningham and Alexis Ajinca finished with 12 respectively.

New York (30-45) shot 40 percent off 36-of-89 shooting from the floor, 32 percent (10-of-31) from three-point range and 69 percent (9-of-13) from the free throw line. The Knicks committed 14 turnovers that led to 14 points for the Pelicans in the contest.

Mar 28, 2016; New Orleans, LA, USA; New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony (7) shoots over New Orleans Pelicans forward Alonzo Gee (15) and guard Tim Frazier (2) during the second quarter of a game at the Smoothie King Center. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Anthony led all Knicks in scoring with 22 points, followed by Robin Lopez with 17 points and Kristaps Porzingis with 16 points.

The Knicks scored first in the game with a layup from Lopez. After the two teams traded baskets over the next few series, the Knicks jumped out to an early 14-6 lead.

The Pelicans started the game flat offensively as Ajinca and Holiday struggled to find the basket. Following a timeout with 8:26 to play, both Ajinca and Holiday recorded baskets to cut the Knicks lead to 16-11.

New York, however, responded with clutch baskets from Jose Calderon and Sasha Vujacic, putting the Knicks up 21-11. Then, the Pelicans responded with a 7-0 run to bring the deficit back within five points before ending the first quarter, trailing the Knicks 28-24.

In the second quarter, the Knicks continued their success on offense, scoring the first four points of the quarter and jumping out a 36-28 lead. Langston Galloway scored six of the Knicks first eight points in the quarter.

With 8:51 to play, Douglas hit a three pointer before both teams went 1:14 without converting a shot from the field. Kevin Seraphin added back-to-back baskets to put the Pelicans up 40-32.

New Orleans responded with a strong 7-0 run as Douglas hit a three pointer and baskets from Jordan Hamilton and Alonzo Gee cut the Knicks lead to one point, 40-39. Halfway through the quarter, Anthony hit the first of his (3) three pointers in the quarter to put the Knicks backup by three points.

New Orleans remained focused as Ajinca drew a foul, made both free throws and Holiday added a three pointer, giving the Pelicans their first lead of the game, 44-42. Following a converted free throw by Frazier, the Knicks went on a 10-0 run.

Anthony hit two two huge three pointers while Galloway and Lopez added baskets respectively, putting the Knicks up 52-45. The Pelicans added four additional points before ending the quarter, trailing the Knicks 54-49.

The Knicks controlled the momentum to begin the third quarter, scoring the first five points. New Orleans, however, dominated the remainder of the quarter.

Mar 28, 2016; New Orleans, LA, USA; New York Knicks center Robin Lopez (8) and New Orleans Pelicans forward Luke Babbitt (8) scramble for a loose ball during the second half of a game at the Smoothie King Center. The Pelicans defeated the Knicks 99-91. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

The Pelicans went on a long 15-1 run. After Cunningham converted on a pair of free throws, Holiday, Babbitt and Cunningham each hit a three pointer.

Then, Holiday converted on a layup followed by Douglas with an easy jumper to give the Pelicans a 64-60 lead. The Pelicans held the Knicks to a total of 10 points in the third quarter and led 68-64 at the end of the third.

New Orleans returns to action on Wednesday as the Pelicans go on the road to play the San Antonio Spurs. Tipoff is set for 8:30 p.m. Eastern time………