Pelicans.com postgame: Pelicans 121, Celtics 120 (OT)
By: Jim Eichenhofer, Pelicans.com, @Jim_Eichenhofer
It wasn’t nationally televised, had no impact on the NBA’s heated postseason races and occurred during the wildly popular NCAA’s March Madness bracket unveiling, but Sunday’s game between the New Orleans Pelicans and Boston Celtics still had basketball aficionados scrambling to tune in from across the country. After a dramatic close to regulation, a back-and-forth overtime period and another career-best performance by Anthony Davis – which is seemingly happening on an every-game basis these days – hoops fans everywhere were happy to have been able to witness an extremely memorable contest.
“I'm not sure I can fathom what ‘peak Anthony Davis’ is going to look like,” tweeted ESPN.com writer Zach Lowe, one of the sport’s most knowledgeable media members, after Davis piled up a career-best 40 points and 21 rebounds.
“I'm watching a feed of Pelicans/Celts because Anthony Davis is gross,” ESPN’s Scott Van Pelt tweeted in the fourth quarter, intending that as a major compliment. “38 (points and) 15 (rebounds). He’s a problem.”
Indeed, two days after the second-year pro compiled a career-high 36-point game against Portland, he delivered an even bigger scoring effort vs. Boston, tallying all of his 40 points in regulation. Davis' individual exploits were the headline-maker of Sunday’s OT thriller, but that was far from the only noteworthy aspect of a wild affair filled with late-game twists and turns.
To even get to OT, Boston (22-45) needed several improbable plays, beginning with Jeff Green tying the score at 110 with 4.9 seconds left in the fourth quarter. Green was fouled on a three-point shot by the Pelicans (27-39); the 78 percent foul shooter this season stepped to the line and made all three tosses.
That was only the beginning of one of the most action-packed final five seconds of a fourth quarter you’ll ever see in the NBA.
After tipping in a game-winning basket against Boston last season as a rookie, Davis appeared to have beaten the Celtics again in 2013-14, sinking a 17-foot turnaround jumper to give the Pelicans a 112-110 edge with only 1.4 seconds left. However, Boston’s Kris Humphries – whose shooting range normally extends only to mid-range – somehow swished a 21-foot baseline turnaround over Davis’ outstretched arms, in time to beat the buzzer and sent the game to OT.
After Tyreke Evans (26 points) made several key plays in the extra period, New Orleans again appeared on the verge of prevailing, leading 121-117 with only 9.4 seconds to go. However, Green made another potentially game-saving play for the Celtics, earning a conventional three-point play with 5.7 ticks left.
New Orleans iced the victory in unusual fashion, able to run out the final 5.7 seconds after Boston couldn’t grab and foul a Pelicans player to stop the clock.
Davis made history on several fronts, with his 40 points and 21 rebounds making him the first player in the franchise’s 26-year history to register a 40-20 game. He also blocked three shots, only the eighth NBA player anywhere to compile a 40-20-3 performance since at least 1985-86. Davis also set a franchise record by scoring at least 28 points for the sixth straight game. The previous record was held by Glen Rice and set in the mid-1990s.
“I think he can do this 10 to 15 times a year because he is so gifted and does things for the right reason,” said Pelicans Coach Monty Williams, who recently predicted on his weekly coach’s show that Davis will produce a 40-20-10 game, perhaps soon. “Obviously, he has great athletic ability, but some of that stuff is just him. When you go for those kind of numbers, that’s a lot of God-given talent.”
“He’s playing amazing basketball,” Evans said. “Every night he just brings it. I have to give him credit for his improvement. Through his hard work, he’s become one of the premier players in the league.”
Davis continues to brandish an all-around game that is making him increasingly difficult for opponents to slow or prevent the 21-year-old from putting up video-game numbers. He threw down his usual assortment of five dunks Sunday, but also was lethal shooting from deep two-point range. An improved foul shooter compared to his rookie season, he was also 12-for-12 from the free-throw line against the Celtics. Over the past six games, a stretch that bridged his turning 21 on Tuesday, Davis is averaging an absurd 32.3 points and 15.2 rebounds.
“Unbelievable,” Pelicans guard Anthony Morrow said of Davis’ recent play. “It just shows his hard work to be able to use his talent. He’s blessed. And he’s a great kid off the floor. The sky’s the limit for him. I think he could’ve had 50 (points). He just kept going. We needed every rebound, every basket, every block, every altered shot. They were all big for us.”
“My teammates did a great job of getting me the ball and Coach ran plays for me,” Davis said of producing another monstrous offensive game. “I’m just trying to be aggressive the whole game. I’m just trying to stay locked in. Every game Coach tells me to be great. And (Morrow) tells me to be great. I just tried to do everything possible to win. That’s all that matters to me.”
The memorable evening for Davis and Pelicans players was capped by a visit in the locker room after the win from team owners Tom Benson and Gayle Benson, as well as team president Dennis Lauscha. The group congratulated the team on one of its most hard-fought victories of 2013-14. New Orleans is now 4-0 in overtime games this season.
“Big win,” Morrow said. “Mr. B (Tom Benson) came in and it was great to see him, and to hear his praise. That’s good for the team.”
“It means a lot to have an owner that cares and wants to be a part of the program,” said Pelicans rookie center Jeff Withey, who tied his career high with three blocks. “It makes us want to go out and play harder, because we have that support. It was such a fun game. Overtime, crazy shots back-to-back (at the end of regulation). AD having a career night. What a fun game.”