Pelicans.com postgame: Pelicans 100, Cavaliers 89
By: Jim Eichenhofer, Pelicans.com, @Jim_Eichenhofer
CLEVELAND – It’s almost always unfair to a young NBA player to begin comparing him to more established players, but after yet another jaw-dropping performance by Anthony Davis on Tuesday, it seemed nearly unavoidable. En route to piling up 30 points and eight blocks against Cleveland, Davis dominated the Cavaliers and was easily the best player on both ends of the court. In the 101st game of his pro career, he approached his NBA highs in points (32) and blocks (9) – on the same night.
Davis unleashed an offensive repertoire that consisted of his usual elite athleticism, but also mixed in a burgeoning skill set that enabled him to capitalize on an improving perimeter shot and a turnaround mid-range jumper. He was an efficient 12-for-18 from the field and 6-for-7 from the foul line. The 20-year-old also grabbed seven rebounds, as New Orleans (19-25) won its third straight game.
“He’s putting it together,” Pelicans guard Austin Rivers said of Davis’ offensive arsenal. “He has a little bit of everything. He’s doing Chris Bosh-esque stuff, but (he’s) even more athletic. He’s a freak athlete. He’s kind of a young (Kevin Garnett). That’s who everyone compared (Davis) to coming out of college. Everyone was like, ‘That’s crazy! He’ll never be like that.’ Now guys are like, ‘Maybe (he is).’ People thought he was going to be (most notably) a good shot-blocker, but he’s getting better and better every game.”
Just hours after Western Conference head coaches were required to turn in their All-Star reserve ballots (the deadline was 11 a.m. Central on Tuesday), those who did not vote for Davis may be feeling a bit sheepish after seeing his 30-and-8 line. On Sunday, Davis registered 22 points, 19 rebounds and seven blocks in a win over Orlando.
“AD was stellar again,” said Pelicans fourth-year coach Monty Williams, who like all NBA head coaches was not allowed to vote for his own players in the All-Star selection process. “Everybody keeps talking about should he be an All-Star? All you’ve got to do is look at tonight. Show me other bigs who are doing it on both ends like he does every single night.”
Near the end of Davis’ showcase performance, he dislocated a finger, but after Pelicans trainer Jon Ishop put the digit back in place, Davis returned to action to help New Orleans close out a third consecutive road win.
“I’m just really thankful to coach a player like him,” Williams said. “(After the dislocation) he just said, ‘Tape it up. I’m going right back out (on the floor).’ That to me says more about him than any stat or number you could put up. His heart and willingness to do whatever it takes for his team is what makes him an All-Star, in my opinion."
For the third straight victory, Davis got plenty of help from his teammates, despite the Pelicans’ current short-handed status as a result of injuries. This time Eric Gordon followed Davis in the scoring rundown by tallying 20 points, but also enjoyed one of his best floor games in a New Orleans uniform. The shooting guard notched seven rebounds and a team-high nine assists.
“Eric has been really good, carrying us with AD, scoring the ball,” Williams said. “And we’ve gotten a number of contributions off the bench that may not be ‘wow’ stats, but a lot of those things guys do help you win games.”
Greg Stiemsma spearheaded the New Orleans reserve group Tuesday, with work around the basket that also appeared prominently in the box score. Stiemsma finished with nine points, 11 rebounds and two blocks, combining with Davis to intimidate the Cavaliers in the paint. Cleveland was just 27-for-65 from two-point range.
Tuesday’s turning point came midway through the second quarter, after Cleveland had taken a 44-40 lead. New Orleans closed the half on a 16-0 run, going up 56-44 at intermission. The Pelicans outscored the Cavs 27-21 in the third quarter and led by as many as 22 points.
The Pelicans have won three road games in a row, at Memphis, Detroit and Cleveland, despite being without starting point guard Jrue Holiday, starting center Jason Smith and No. 2 scorer Ryan Anderson (who was No. 1 prior to Davis’ January surge). New Orleans is at Minnesota on Wednesday.
“Like we said three weeks ago (when key injuries starting to pile up), we’ve got to have the mentality of getting better,” Williams said. “We’ve done that. Now we can’t back off of those things.”