Pelicans.com postgame: Pelicans 111, Nuggets 107 (OT)
By: Jim Eichenhofer, Pelicans.com, @Jim_Eichenhofer
As Anthony Morrow wheeled around at his locker following Sunday’s thrilling overtime victory vs. Denver, the smiling reserve guard wondered if a large group of media members had gotten lost in the New Orleans Pelicans’ locker room and somehow ended up at an incorrect destination.
“You guys are at the wrong Anthony’s locker!” Morrow joked, referring to his teammate and fellow Anthony, NBA All-Star forward Anthony Davis.
Following one of the most exciting wins of the Pelicans’ 2013-14 season, both Anthonys were heroes and worthy centers of attention from the local media. Morrow delivered arguably the biggest shot he’s made in his first year as a Pelican, a mid-range jumper with nine-tenths of a second remaining that forced overtime. Davis merely had one of the greatest individual games in team annals, becoming the first player in the franchise’s 26-year history to post the statistical line of 32 points, 17 rebounds and six blocks.
After Morrow drained his ultra-clutch jumper over Nuggets star guard Ty Lawson at the end of regulation, Davis also authored a memorable play involving Lawson. With New Orleans (26-37) protecting a 106-104 lead in OT, the NBA’s leading shot-blocker rejected a Lawson layup, virtually catching the attempt out of the air near the backboard. The Pelicans capitalized at the other end with a Tyreke Evans layup, making it 108-104 with 55 seconds left. The Nuggets (27-35) didn’t score again until a window-dressing Evan Fournier three-pointer went in with three-tenths of a second to go in the extra period.
“That kind of defensive play is the stuff that gives you so much confidence,” Pelicans Coach Monty Williams said of Davis’ critical block. “When you know you have a guy on the backside who can cover up (defensive mistakes).”
New Orleans won for the third straight time, scoring at least 110 points in all three wins over the Lakers, Bucks and Nuggets.
The Pelicans trailed by as many as 16 points in the first half and were still down 54-43 at halftime. Denver led 94-90 with a minute remaining in regulation, but Brian Roberts hit two free throws with 40 seconds to go. Austin Rivers came up with a huge block of Denver’s Aaron Brooks on the next possession, which led to a jump ball between Brooks and Davis. With a 10-inch height advantage, Davis easily won the jump ball, giving the Pelicans a chance to force OT. New Orleans tried to run a play for Davis, but Denver’s Kenneth Faried tipped the ball away to near the sideline, where Morrow grabbed it as time ticked down. Morrow methodically dribbled back toward the middle of the floor, where he stopped and popped his game-tying shot.
“I saw that Ty was on me, and that I could probably get a shot off,” the 6-5 Morrow said, referring to Lawson’s 5-11 height. “He’s smaller than me, but he’s quicker than me. I just wanted to get to that spot (at the top of the key). Thank God I hit the shot.”
“Kenneth Faried kind of tipped the ball, but luckily (Morrow) was right there to get the ball,” Davis said, before smiling as he described the dribble moves by Morrow that freed Morrow for his game-tying shot. “I was about to set a screen, but then I saw (Morrow) started doing all that And-One mix tape stuff, so I just decided to get out of the way. He just made a big shot. That was huge.”
As has been his habit at times this season, Davis said he didn’t even bother to watch to see if Morrow’s shot went in, knowing that Morrow is so effective from that spot shooting on the floor.
“Top of the key – that’s a layup for him,” Davis said. “He shoots a lot of them before and after practice. I just kept walking down the court, heard the crowd go crazy.”
A laughing Davis then joked that “I’m glad (Morrow) made it, because I would’ve looked stupid if he hadn’t.”
In a season filled with incredible Davis performances, he again was the best player at both ends of the floor. He finished 10-for-20 from the field, 12-for-16 from the foul line and grabbed seven offensive rebounds, a category New Orleans won 18-12 over Denver.
Davis became the first NBA player since Dwight Howard in 2010 to register a 32-17-6 stat line.
“That’s just special,” Williams described of another example of rare excellence from the 20-year-old, who’ll turn 21 on Tuesday.
In overtime, Morrow gave the Pelicans a 100-98 edge when he nailed a three-pointer. The Nuggets pulled back into a 104-102 lead with 2:16 remaining, but the hosts tallied the next nine points. Evans had a game-tying layup, followed by two Davis free throws and another close-range hoop from Evans. The Pelicans sealed the outcome behind two Evans foul shots and an Al-Farouq Aminu free throw in the final 15 seconds.
New Orleans, which has played for nearly two months without three of its most important players due to injury, captured its third straight victory after it had dropped eight in a row.
“It feels great,” Morrow said of the win. “We’re showing great character. Guys are high-spirited; nobody’s getting down because of the situation – obviously there are some injuries. I take my hat off to the guys on this team, and the coaching staff as well.”