NEW YORK (AP) In a matchup of teams fighting for postseason spots, only the New Orleans Pelicans looked playoff-worthy.
Alexis Ajinca and Quincy Pondexter each scored 17 points and the Pelicans moved within percentage points of eighth place in the Western Conference by beating the Brooklyn Nets 111-91 on Tuesday night.
Omer Asik had 12 points and 15 rebounds for the Pelicans in their third straight victory. Anthony Davis scored 15 points, a night after tying his career high with 43 in a win at Milwaukee.
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The Pelicans are now 2 percentage points behind Oklahoma City for the West’s final playoff spot.
”It’s big,” guard Eric Gordon said. ”Every game counts from here on out and we’ve just got to keep on fighting for the eighth spot. We just know that it’s going to be tough to reach the eighth seed because they’re winning a lot of games and we are too, so we can’t slow down.”
Brook Lopez had 15 points and nine rebounds for the Nets, lost their fourth straight in the finale of a five-game homestand in which they went 1-4.
Nets coach Lionel Hollins was disappointed his team didn’t respond after the Pelicans roared back from an early 14-point deficit.
”Well, that’s all year long,” Hollins said. ”I think competing is what this business is about, that’s the reason I played, the reason I coach – to compete. It’s not about the money, it’s not about the fame, it’s not about anything but just going out there competing and earning respect of your opponent. That’s all that matters.
”People can write good or bad about you and you can make a lot of money or not make a lot of money, but the money doesn’t matter when you get between the lines.”
Ajinca had 11 points during a four-minute stretch of the second quarter as the Pelicans took a 55-46 lead into halftime.
”He was good,” coach Monty Williams said. ”He gave us a big lift. Being able to throw him the ball is something that we’ve gone to the last few weeks and he’s delivered for us.”
New Orleans extended the lead to 78-61 by the end of the third quarter as Asik and Davis dominated Brooklyn’s frontcourt. The pair combined for 13 of New Orleans’ 23 points in the third.
Pondexter had 14 points in the fourth.
Davis was hit in the face and returned to the locker room to be checked out early in the period. By the time he was cleared to return, the Pelicans were well ahead and didn’t need him.
The Nets lost Alan Anderson, Markel Brown and Sergey Karasev to injuries.
Brooklyn fell three games out of the final playoff spot and into 11th in the East.
”Every game at this point is a big game,” struggling guard Deron Williams said. ”I talked about it after last loss. The teams in front of us are not showing any signs of slowing down. We got some ground to gain and got to play better than we are if we want a chance to win.”
Pelicans: Monty Williams compared Davis to some elite company. ”Tracy McGrady was probably the most talented guy I played with and AD is like Tracy,” he said. ”They can do pretty much anything on the floor. Grant (Hill) was like that. Allen Iverson was like that. They’re just off-the-chart talented, so you never put a ceiling on those guys because they can do anything on any given night on both ends. AD is not like anybody I’ve ever seen. That’s why I’m not frustrated, but I just kind of laugh at the MVP stuff. The guy dominates on both ends of the floor and we only talk about guys who are dominating on one end of the floor so it’s tough for me to listen to all that when I’ve got a guy who absolutely dominates on both ends.”
Nets: Anderson left the game with a bruised tailbone. Brown turned his right ankle. X-rays were negative. Karasev sprained his right knee and will undergo further tests Wednesday.