Anthony Davis missed both games (when they were called the Hornets) against the Miami Heat last season but was a force to be reckoned with as he poured in 18 points and 8 rebounds in the losing effort.
But the surprise of the night belonged to Heat free agent acquisition Greg Oden, who took to the floor in his first action in three years after undergoing several major surgeries. His comeback bid was going well and he had been cleared for 5-on-5 work last week but that he had experienced some minor swelling after a scrimmage.
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra had given no prior indication that Oden would play, but out of nowhere the big man peeled off his warmups after a second quarter timeout and immediately made his presence felt. Chris Bosh got one of his seven assists of the night by quickly passing the ball to Oden, who had great position right in front of the basket to make the turnaround slam dunk to the delight of his teammates on the bench. He grabbed a pair of rebounds as well and defended the paint several times to thwart Pelicans players around the rim. Oden was active on defense and though he was called for two quick fouls (one of them when he was caught out on the perimeter), he made an immediate impact in his limited minutes.
If his comeback bid continues to progress ahead of schedule, it won't be long before Oden can be counted on to be plugged in here and there against the NBA's big men that have had their way against the Heat during the Big 3 era. His play is understandably rusty, but the talent and potential was evident tonight in just those four tantalizing minutes.
Bosh had a strong game with his impressive 7 assists to go along with 14 points but Dwyane Wade (25 points, 7 assists) and LeBron James (27 points, 4 steals) were too much for the Pelicans to handle as the star duo led the Heat on a furious comeback in the second half.
Wade scored on a variety of jump shots, spin moves, cuts to the basket and even a three-pointer for good measure. LeBron was up to his usual MVP antics with his strong all-around game and unstoppable moves to the basket. Birdman also had an impressive game, going 5-for-5 on his way to 13 points and he was able to have a positive impact on both ends of the court.
The Heat quickly fell behind 34-19 with one minute left in the first quarter but they made the first of several comebacks during the game with a 22-3 run to take the 41-37 lead. The Pelicans were able to make a run of their own and regain the lead by halftime. In addition to Davis' strong play, the Pelicans backcourt of Eric Gordon and Jrue Holiday also had their moments against a forgiving Heat defense that allowed 60 points in the first half. The deep Pelicans bench, without their free agent acquisition Tyreke Evans, outscored the Heat bench 24-11 through the first two quarters led by Ryan Andersen and Anthony Morrow.
LeBron came alive with nine points in the third quarter as the Heat's starters played more minutes than ever in the preseason. The MVP went on a personal 6-0 run to retake the lead at 83-82 and then he looked on from the bench as Wade took over and doubled the Heat run to 12 straight points to make it 89-82. That ballooned to a 21-2 run a hot-shooting Ray Allen (who hadn't played in a week) knocking down three straight three-pointers.
The Heat scored three more times beyond the arc as the defense came alive to limit the Pelicans to just 13 points in the fourth quarter. The game ended with the Heat's fifth preseason victory in the Pelicans' first home game played at the newly renovated New Orleans Arena.
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