INDIANAPOLIS — New Orleans Pelicans guard Eric Gordon grew up about 12 miles from Bankers Life Fieldhouse. In his only trip there this season, he had hoped to send the hometown crowd disappointed.
For awhile, it looked like he might.
Gordon’s 17 first-half points put the Pelicans in position to upset the league’s best team. But New Orleans’ offense sputtered in the second half, and the Indiana Pacers cruised to a 99-82 win and 26-6 record.
“I thought I did pretty good in the first half,” the former North Central High School and Indiana University standout said. “But in the second half, I kind of slowed down. They’re a good team, they’re a tough team and they really picked up their intensity in the second half.”
The Pelicans (15-17) were without forward Ryan Anderson, who, according to team officials, remained in a Boston hospital Saturday after suffering a cervical stinger in Friday night’s win over the Boston Celtics. Anderson was averaging a career-high and team-leading 19.8 points per game.
The Pelicans didn’t miss the forward’s presence in the first quarter. With a 19-7 run, New Orleans pushed out to a 14-point lead. During the stretch, Gordon scored nine points, including a 26-foot 3-pointer to jumpstart the run. The Pelicans’ led 27-15 at the end of the first period.
“They played really well,” Pacers forward David West said. “That’s how they came out and beat Portland last week. They just came out and blitzed them early and got on top.”
New Orleans continued to control the tempo through the early part of the second quarter, maintaining a double-digit lead until the 5:53 mark. The Pacers then fed the ball to Ian Mahinimi for a monster dunk, and the comeback was on. Indiana, powered by a combo of Lance Stephenson, Danny Granger and C.J. Watson, whittled the lead down to 49-44 at the half.