T hat work officially began on the last Tuesday evening of October, as the NBA regular season opened with a slate of three games, all hosted by Western Conference cities. At the water cooler Wednesday morning, the performance many fans raved about came from the one game that was not broadcast nationally.
As San Antonio raises a fifth NBA championship banner in Texas and Lakers legend Kobe Bryant makes his anticipated return from a knee injury in California, Davis delivers a bold statement in Louisiana. In Game 1 of his third NBA season, the 21-year-old was seemingly everywhere, racking up 26 points, 17 rebounds and a career-high nine blocks in a 101-84 home victory over Orlando. He became the first NBA player since the 1985-86 season to generate a 26-17-9 statistical line in a team’s season opener. He’s also the first player since Dwight Howard (30-19-10 in 2008) to produce those numbers in any game. The national reaction was widespread.
“Anthony Davis is going to be incredible to watch in his third season,” SB Nation succinctly put it.
“Be very afraid: Anthony Davis seems poised to become even more dominant than we all had anticipated,” SLAM warned the next day.
Individual dominance is one thing, but nothing pushes an NBA player to a new level of respect and recognition like winning does.
Despite the presence of Davis, New Orleans had gone a combined 0-8 vs. division rival San Antonio over his first two NBA seasons. The Pelicans hadn’t prevailed on the Spurs’ home floor in their previous seven tries, dating back to Oct. 30, 2010. So when Davis drove past Aron Baynes for a game-deciding layup with 6.6 seconds left in a 100-99 thriller Nov. 8, it was an early sign of things to come for a franchise trying to join its Southwest Division brethren among the NBA’s elite.
“We haven’t beaten them since I’ve been here,” Davis said after the buzzer at the AT&T Center. “They’re the defending champs, so this game, and this outcome is definitely huge for us… This is a big team win for us. Just one guy isn’t going to beat the Spurs.”
That’s true – three other Pelicans starters scored 14 or more points – but with the game on the line, Davis used his skill and athleticism to get to the rim for the final two of his 27 points (he also notched 11 rebounds and six blocks). The win and clutch basket proved to be a bit of foreshadowing: New Orleans finished 3-1 vs. San Antonio during the regular season, including the Game 82 victory that got the Pelicans into the NBA playoffs.
Two Blocks in Two Seconds
PORTLAND – NBA players are too big, too athletic and too skilled to have their shots beyond a few feet from the rim blocked, no matter how formidable the defender. Of the roughly 10 blocks in an average NBA game, the vast majority come on layups, dunks or floaters in the paint.
That’s what made Davis’ feat in Oregon so supernatural. At the 1:38 mark of the second quarter, Davis swatted Portland All-Star forward LaMarcus Aldridge, he of the normally unblockable, high-release jumper. One second later, Davis rejected guard Wesley Matthews’ 19-foot shot.
Two blocks in two seconds? No wonder Davis led the NBA in rejections for a second straight season, with 200 swats, averaging 2.9 a game. He also became New Orleans’ all-time career leader in blocks, with 501 in just 199 total games.
As Bleacher Report described the absurd play in Portland, “Stuffing a LaMarcus Aldridge fadeaway is not an act within the realm of physical possibility. Not our realm, at least. For Anthony Davis, however, it’s an opening course of sorts… (Getting two blocks in two seconds was) a dizzyingly absurd sequence.”