MILWAUKEE -- Eric Gordon scored 21 points, centre Alexis Ajinca added 16, and the New Orleans Pelicans headed home for All-Star weekend with a 102-98 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks on Wednesday night.
The Pelicans had seven players in double figures and stayed in the game despite foul trouble all night for big man Anthony Davis.
Davis ended up playing the fourth quarter with four fouls, providing enough of a presence on both ends of the floor to allow his teammates to go strong to the hoop.
The short-handed Bucks still hung around and Ersan Ilyasova's 3 with 58.7 seconds left got Milwaukee within 100-98.
After Brian Roberts missed a layup, Milwaukee had one last chance, but got tied up in the backcourt and turned the ball over with 9 seconds left.
Brandon Knight had 22 points and nine assists to lead the Bucks, limited to nine players because of a litany of injuries.
They may have missed shot-blockers Larry Sanders (eye) and John Henson (ankle) the most with the Pelicans attacking the basket late.
A layup by Tyreke Evans and soft floater in the lane by Roberts sandwiched around a missed dunk by Ilyasova gave new Orleans a 100-95 lead with 1:06 left before Ilyasova redeemed himself with a 3.
The surge by the Pelicans answered an open 3 from the corner by Nate Wolters that had drawn Milwaukee within one with about 2 minutes left.
But after getting to the hoop for much of the first half with Davis on the bench with three fouls, the Bucks had trouble getting good looks in the lane after halftime.
Ilyasova finished with 16 points and nine boards in his first game back since missing two with back spasms.
Davis finished with 12 points and Roberts had 17.
Ajinca came a point short of his career high. The 7-foot-2 centre finished 7 of 7 and stabilized the middle while Davis was on the bench.
Averaging just 4.0 points a game coming into the night, Ajinca went 4 of 4 in the Pelicans' 37-point third quarter that turned a three-point halftime deficit into a seven-point lead.
New Orleans coach Monty Williams sought a quick start on defence from his team after giving up at least 29 points in the first quarters of their two previous games, both losses. The Pelicans heeded their coach's pleas and held the Bucks to 19 points in the first quarter.
But with foul trouble plaguing Davis -- the NBA's leader in blocked shots -- the Bucks broke through early in the middle.
Nifty interior passing helped get Zaza Pachulia and Ilyasova find room to operate underneath. Knight passed up an open 3 and drove the lane to draw Davis' third foul with 6:39 left in the second quarter, just seconds after Davis had returned to floor.
Milwaukee took advantage from there and got a boost from Gary Neal on the outside with 11 first-half points to take a 49-46 lead at halftime. Neal finished with 18 for the night.
NOTES: Pelicans coach Monty Williams was 4-1 all-time against the Bucks entering Wednesday's game. ... Reserve C Greg Stiemsma is a native of Randolph, Wis., and played his college ball at Wisconsin from 2004-8. ... The Bucks were the only team that New Orleans had yet to face this season coming into the contest. ... Sanders saw a specialist for his fractured orbital bone, though Drew wasn't sure when he would return.