NEW ORLEANS (CBSMiami/AP) – Not only did Alexis Ajinca score a career-high 24 points, but he also made the go-ahead layup with 26 seconds left, lifting the New Orleans Pelicans past the Miami Heat 104-102 on Friday night.
Hassan Whiteside appeared to be going up for a tying dunk when he was blocked by fellow 7-footer Omer Asik, who secured the rebound, but his hasty outlet pass went off Eric Gordon’s hands and out of bounds.
That gave Miami one more shot, but Dwyane Wade’s 3-point attempt bounced out as time expired, dropping the Heat to its first loss in three games.
Gordon scored 20 points and Tyreke Evans had 19 points and 11 assists for New Orleans before fouling on a charge with the scored tied at 100 and 1:23 left.
Whiteside’s dunk then put Miami in front, and Ajinca tied it with his first of two baskets in the last minute.
Virtually all of the Pelicans’ current winning streak has taken place without All-Star forward Anthony Davis, who sprained his right shoulder in the first quarter of New Orleans’ victory at Miami on Feb. 21. The Pelicans have since beaten Toronto, Brooklyn and Miami again to pull one game behind Oklahoma City for the last playoff spot in the Western Conference.
Quincy Pondexter scored 18 points for New Orleans, and Dante Cunningham had 10 points and 10 rebounds. Asik finished with 10 rebounds and his one huge last-minute block.
Luol Deng had 22 points for the Heat, while Goran Dragic added 20. Whiteside, who blocked four shots, and Henry Walker each scored 16 points and Wade finished with 11 points.
Michael Beasley made his season debut in what began his third stint with Miami. He played 10:18 and scored seven points.
Miami took the first double-digit lead of either team late in the third quarter, thanks to a 12-5 run that began with Whiteside’s layup and ended with Walker’s 3, making it 82-72.
Miami led by nine after three, but Ajinca opened the fourth with an alley-oop dunk as he was fouled to ignite a 6-0 spurt which cut it to 82-79. That set up a tense ending to a game that had 19 lead changed and 16 ties.
Neither team led by more than seven in a tight first half as both teams shot better than 54 percent.
Dragic scored 12 of Miami’s 25 points in the first quarter, mostly by driving to the hoop. Deng had 15 first-half points on 5-of-6 shooting, including a 3.
New Orleans got most of its early scoring from its back court, with Evans scoring 13 and Gordon 10 by halftime, at which point the game was tied at 54.
Heat: Miami for the first time this season when Deng had at least 20 points. The Heat were 9-0 in such games coming in. … Miami fell to 15-16 on the road and 23-4 when leading after three quarters. … Whiteside had seven rebounds, the first time in 13 games he had fewer than nine.
Pelicans: Norris Cole was held below double figures in scoring for the first time since joining New Orleans in a trade last week. He missed all 10 of his shots and finished with three points on free throws. … New Orleans is 20-10 at home. … Luke Babbitt, who hit a 3, is 14 of 23 from deep in his past eight games.
Heat: Host Atlanta on Saturday.
Pelicans: Visit Denver on Sunday.
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