Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic came away with a loose ball with under a minute to play and the Mavs clinging to a one-point lead. Points on the other end would have been devastating to the New Orleans Pelicans’ chances to come away with a victory.
Pelicans guard E’Twaun Moore knew the situation. He remembered Alvin Gentry’s fiery halftime speech. He knew he needed to make a play.
So Moore looked up and realized Doncic was looking downcourt. The rookie was trying to make a play, unaware that Moore was about to make his own.
Moore snuck up and was able to poke the ball free from Doncic at halfcourt. But then, the ball rolled. And rolled. And kept rolling.
“I was like, ‘Oh shoot, I gotta chase it down,’” Moore said. “I was able to get it. I had to put my wheels on and make a play and make it happen.”
Moore was able to save the ball to Solomon Hill just before it went out of bounds. Hill found Jrue Holiday who looked up court to Anthony Davis in the short corner. Davis turned around and hit a jumper while being fouled with 43.9 seconds to go and the ensuing free throw to put the Pelicans up 114-112.
It was the last points either team scored as the Pelicans (16-20) got a pair of defensive stops to seal the game and snap a five-game losing streak.
“Tonight was about establishing something,” Hill said. “It was about establishing a will. Establishing a presence. Not just at the end of the game. I don’t think there’s anybody who can hit a switch and be like, ‘Let’s finish.’ It’s started when we came out in the beginning of the third quarter. It was playing hard regardless of the situation.”
Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry called Moore’s steal and save the “play of the game.”
“We came back, got a basket out of it, and it would have been disastrous if they ended up with a basket in that,” Gentry said. “Just the attitude and effort we played with was the way we have been doing it. If we want to win close games, you just have to dig in and grind your way through and get over the hump.”
Gentry’s halftime speech might have had a little to do with the effort change from the first half. The Pelicans fell behind early and were down 66-55 to start the second half.
Before they came back on the floor, Gentry did his best to get his guys on the same page.
“It wasn’t a G-rated speech,” Gentry said. “I was disappointed at the way we approached the game. We have to start getting back to who we were and that is: playing hard, moving the basketball, and finding people.
“I was just disappointed because I thought the way we started the game was not going to be a game we were going to win. I was just disappointed, and I let them know that.”
Davis, who finished with a season-high 48 points and added 17 rebounds, four assists, two blocks and two steals, said the speech was “something that we needed.”
“It kind of gave us a lot of juice,” Davis said. “In that second half, we held that team to 46 points. … We have to play the way we did in the second half in the beginning of the game.”