Injuries and illness across New Orleans' roster provided Daruis Miller a chance to play extended minutes with his old Kentucky teammate, Anthony Davis.
They did a lot of winning together in college, and Wednesday night's game against an NBA playoff contender was no different.
Davis had 16 points, 13 rebounds and six blocks while Miller capped a 16-point outing with a pair of clutch jumpers, and the under-manned Pelicans won their fourth straight, 98-96 over the Los Angeles Clippers.
"I just knew I had an opportunity. I wanted to come out and play aggressively," said Miller, whose nearly 29 minutes of action were more than double his season average of 11.8. "I just so happened to have a good game. I think everybody did, though. Everybody stepped up and that's the reason why we won."
Miller's 3 made it 95-90, and his 16-foot jumper coming off a screen to the left of the foul line gave the Pelicans a 97-92 lead with 47 seconds left.
Anthony Morrow, also playing extended minutes, scored 27 points, while reserve center Alexis Ajinca added 14 points and 11 rebounds.
"We beat a team that's got a chance to win a title," Pelicans coach Monty Williams said. "I can't say enough about our group. It felt like a playoff game in there tonight."
Jamal Crawford scored 31 for the Clippers, but narrowly missed a couple late 3-point attempts, including one as time expired that could have won it.
"We didn't execute the play," Clippers coach Doc Rivers said of the final seconds. "But the game didn't come down to the final play. I really thought (New Orleans) deserved to win.
"If we had won, I would have taken it, but sometimes the basketball gods punish you for messing around and I though that's what we did."
Former New Orleans star Chris Paul had 12 assists, but set a Clippers record for shooting futility by missing all 12 of his attempts from the field. His only points came on two foul shots.
"If I go 0 for 15 or 0 for 20 and we win, I could care less," said Paul, whose team had won nine of its previous 10 games to get within striking distance of the second playoff seed in the Western Conference. "It's more than this game. It's about playing the right way going into the playoffs."
Blake Griffin had 21 points, including a late off-balance floater as he was fouled with 10.5 seconds left. But he missed the following free throw that could have tied it. Davis rebounded the miss, but clanked a free throw on the other end, giving Los Angeles one more chance to tie or win.
Davis scored 10 of his points in the second half, including a two-handed dunk in which he sprung toward the hoop from right side of the lane too quickly for DeAndre Jordan to respond. Davis also took on Griffin with confidence, rising over him to score on one end and alter his shots on the other.
"AD wanted to prove that he and Blake are on the same level," Williams said.
Jordan had 11 points, 16 rebounds and four blocks, but lamented, "We didn't play defense in the first half. We gave them a lot of confidence and when that happens it's hard to turn guys off."
Pelicans guard Eric Gordon missed his third straight game with left knee tendinitis, while point guards Brian Roberts (bruised left knee) and Austin Rivers (upper respiratory infection) were also out.
That forced Williams to start shooting guard Tyreke Evans at point guard, with Miller, normally a small forward, also playing some minutes at guard. Evans finished with 10 points and nine assists.
"It's like MASH unit," Williams said. "We're sitting there looking at the guys go through warm-ups this morning and it didn't look good. So we brought the guys together and just talked to them about, 'Just compete at a high level.'"
New Orleans managed to keep pace with Los Angeles in part because Paul kept missing and didn't score until hitting two free throws with 2:52 left in the third quarter.
"Chris started pressing a little bit," Rivers said. "He was trying to get going, which you want him to do. Just keep doing it in the realm of the offense."
Notes: The Clippers went 13 of 30 from 3-point range. They won the previous 33 games in which they'd made at least nine 3s. ... The Pelicans' victory was their first over the Clippers in four games this season. They won't meet again. ... New Orleans reached 10 blocks in a game for the 10th time this season, most in the NBA.