Carmelo Anthony made up his mind. He was taking the big shots in crunch time, and there wasn't anything 6-foot-10 All-Star Anthony Davis or anyone else on the Pelicans could do about it.
"It was just a game where I didn't want to see slip away," Anthony said.
His 12-foot jumper over Davis from the left side of the lane with 1:14 left, followed by a strikingly similar 14-footer over Luke Babbitt half a minute later, capped a 42-point performance that lifted the New York Knicks to 98-91 victory Wednesday night and halted a three-game skid.
Looking to somehow stop Anthony from beating them in the waning minutes, the Pelicans sent Davis to the perimeter to guard New York's prolific scorer. But Anthony had no intention of giving up the shot, and had a plan to create an open look against the NBA's leading shot blocker.
"Without a doubt. I knew once I beat him, just get a little bit of space from him, I had a chance of making the shot," Anthony said.
A night after losing at Memphis, New York blew a 13-point, fourth-quarter lead before Anthony took over.
J.R. Smith had 19 points and Tim Hardaway Jr. added 16 for New York, which lost Iman Shumpert to a sprained left knee in the third quarter. Tyson Chandler had 11 rebounds and a pair of blocks in the final minutes.
Eric Gordon scored 28 for the Pelicans, but was shut out in the fourth quarter. Davis finished with 14 points and 10 rebounds.
Austin Rivers finished with 14 points and Brian Roberts 10 for the Pelicans, who've lost three of four.
It was almost enough in a see-saw game included 16 lead changes and six ties, if only the Pelicans had an answer for Anthony.
"Our help (defense) was trying to get there, but you can't help against a guy like that if you give him one or two dribbles to the basket," Pelicans coach Monty Williams said of Anthony. "He was efficient all night long. ... He hit tough shots. A lot of those shots had a hand in his face."
Then there was one critical, late sequence in which Chandler saved a lost ball after a missed shot and got it to Anthony for a layup
"I just wanted to win. Whatever it took to keep that play alive," Chandler said. "Those kind of plays ultimately help you win basketball games."
New York appeared to be seizing control late in the third quarter, which the Knicks closed with an 8-2 run that included two jumpers by Anthony, Hardaway's breakaway dunk set up by Raymond Felton's block of Rivers, and Chandler's one-handed alley-oop finish over Davis.
Smith then hit a 3 and driving layup to open the fourth quarter, giving New York its largest lead at 83-70.
But the unlikely combination of Rivers, Babbitt and Roberts helped New Orleans storm back.
Rivers hit a driving layup and a 3. Babbitt added a 3 and driving layup to cap an 11-2 spurt.
Later, Babbitt's turnaround and Roberts' two consecutive driving floaters vaulted New Orleans back into the lead at 89-88 with 3:58 to go, setting the stage for Anthony's resounding finish.
Anthony and Gordon wasted little time working their way into double-digit points, dueling throughout a tight first half in which neither team led by more than six points.
Anthony scored 18 points in the opening two periods and Gordon 17. New York led by only a basket after Rivers' pull-up jumper late in the second quarter, but Hardaway hit a 3 and Anthony added a free throw to make it 53-47 at halftime.
Ultimately, Babbit said, the Pelicans were simply taken down by "one of the best one-on-one players in the league."
"Carmelo was just in the zone tonight," Babbitt continued. "He was in rhythm. He made some plays down the stretch that really hurt us."