NEW ORLEANS — As Anthony Davis soaked in the crescendo of cheers punctuating an intense but triumphant struggle with Dallas, the Pelicans' All-Star noticed a fan standing before him with his arms invitingly extended to each side.
So Davis gave the friendly stranger a hug.
"When you're out there having fun, there's no telling what you're going to do," Davis said. "I didn't expect to go in the crowd. My body just walked me over there. When you're out there having fun and playing as hard as we play, your best emotions come out."
Davis capped a 28-point, 10-rebound outing with go-ahead free throws in the final seconds and a pivotal steal, and New Orleans won its third straight game, 109-106 over the Dallas Mavericks on Sunday night.
The victory not only gave the Pelicans a season-long winning streak in what has been a frustratingly inconsistent season, but also ended a nine-game skid in their series with Dallas.
"We talked about how if we can beat a team like this it would be a big step for our program," Pelicans coach Monty Williams said. "We knew it would be a tough, playoff-type game."
Tyreke Evans had 24 points, including a running hook in the final half-minute, to go with a season-high 12 assists for New Orleans. Ryan Anderson added 18 points.
Monta Ellis scored 36 points, giving Dallas a 106-105 lead with a running scoop over Quincy Pondexter and Omer Asik with 12.3 seconds left, but Davis drew a foul from Tyson Chandler while receiving Evans' inbound pass and hit the go-ahead free throws.
Then Davis, who had five steals, intercepted Rajon Rondo's inbound pass intended for Dirk Nowitzki and added two more free throws.
Davis said Williams had instructed the Pelicans to deny Ellis the inbound pass.
"Dirk was the only one left who can score ... so I just tried to deny him the ball and make (Rondo) force a hang-time pass, knowing that I could probably get a piece of it," Davis said.
Nowitzki said Dallas was hurt by being out of timeouts on the play.
"We just had to throw it up," Nowitzki said. "It's hard to lob it up over one of the longest guys in the NBA."
Ellis had one more chance to tie it, but his 27-foot shot missed in the final seconds.
Nowitzki scored 24 points for Dallas, which has lost two straight.
"Nothing is going to be given to us on the road," Nowitzki said after questioning the late foul call against Chandler that led to Davis' go-ahead free throws. "We still had enough chances. We just have to be better."
Dallas coach Rick Carlisle also cited the officiating as a factor, particularly the call on Chandler.
"The difference in the game was the whistles, really," Carlisle said. "You never want to see a call like that made, but they made it. So we got to play through it."
Pondexter scored 14 points for New Orleans, while Asik added 10 points and 11 rebounds.
Rondo finished with 17 points, nine assists and eight rebounds. Dwight Powell had 10 points for Dallas.
Putbacks by Davis and Asik — along with Davis' technical free throw after Carlisle was whistled for arguing — helped New Orleans match its largest lead at 81-71 in the third quarter. But Ellis came right back with consecutive 3s.
In the fourth quarter, Ellis hit another 3, then a floater over his shoulder and off the glass with his back to the basket, giving Dallas a 99-97 lead. Nowitzki's 3 put Dallas up 102-99 before Eric Gordon's third 3-pointer tied it.
Mavericks: Chandler briefly left in the third quarter to get an X-ray after colliding with Davis, but it was negative and he returned in the fourth quarter. ... Carlisle (599-413) remained just short of 600 career regular-season coaching victories.
Pelicans: After going 4-12 against the Southwest Division last season, New Orleans is 6-4 in divisional games this season. ... The Pelicans, who are two game behind Phoenix for the last playoff spot in the Western Conference, are 14-5 at home, where they play eight of their next nine games. "We've got to try to win all eight," Davis said.
Anderson had been given the Pelicans' previous game off to rest sore ankles. In his return, he made 6 of 10 shots, including 2 of 3 from deep, and all four free throws in nearly 28 minutes.
Mavericks: host Memphis on Tuesday
Pelicans: host Philadelphia on Monday
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