NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Not long after Pelicans coach Monty Williams said he expected Tyreke Evans to take the night off to rest his sore right knee, Evans surprised his team by suiting up.
Then he stunned the Oklahoma City Thunder with one of the best performances of his career.
Evans scored a career-high 41 points to go with nine rebounds, eight assists and three steals, and the New Orleans Pelicans snapped an eight-game skid by topping the playoff-bound Thunder 101-89 on Monday night.
"It was one of those, man, where I felt like nobody could guard me out there," Evans said. "The knee was sore but I was just fighting through it. ... It was just one of those games where I wanted to win, no matter what it took."
Evans made 14 of 26 shots while scoring mostly on quick, powerful bursts to the hoop. He also scored 12 points at the foul line and hit a clutch 3 — turning and pounding his chest as the shot went through — to put the Pelicans ahead 90-82 with 4:21 left.
"He wasn't going to play today. That's the amazing part," Williams said.
Kevin Durant scored 25 points for the Thunder, who have lost two straight and won't lock up the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference playoffs without at least one more win or a Los Angeles Clippers loss.
"I'm not making any excuses. They just beat us," Durant said. "They got whatever they wanted on the offensive end and it felt like we were just out of it."
With Oklahoma City having played in Indiana on Sunday, coach Scott Brooks chose to rest point guard Russell Westbrook, starting Reggie Jackson in his place.
Jackson, however, was not a factor offensively for much of the game, finishing with four points and three assists.
Oklahoma could hardly complain about being short-handed, though. With all five early season starters and its best scorer off the bench out for the season, New Orleans had only one regular point guard among 10 players in uniform.
That was Austin Rivers, who was ejected, along with the Thunder's Nick Collison, after the pair got into a scuffle with 7:56 left in the second quarter.
Evans, normally a shooting guard, took over at point guard after that and went on to score 37 of his points.
"I knew I had to take over with Austin out," Evans said. "We needed a win — bad."
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