A cursory look at this season's stats leaders has Anthony Davis' name among the NBA's best in scoring (28.7 ppg), rebounding (13.4 rpg) and blocks (2.6 bpg). Yet while he continues to shine, his New Orleans Pelicans continue to struggle.
Last night was a microcosm of those notions, with Davis dominating (34 points and a career-high 26 rebounds) and the Pelicans faltering (in a 126-121 road loss to the Brooklyn Nets). The Pelicans have lost seven of their last 10 games, are 13-22 after starting the season 4-0 and are 6-10 since Dec. 1. Davis said after last night's loss that he knows his team can still make a playoff push, but that it also can't keep losing ground in a crowded Western Conference playoff chase.
“We can’t sleep in the West,” Davis said, per Nick Veronica of the New Orleans Advocate. “We know that it’s a loaded conference. Brooklyn had the same record as us (17-21) and they were ninth; we’re 14th. It’s a loaded conference. We've got to be able to put a streak of wins together.
“The frustration is, we’re a better team than our record shows,” he added. “I mean, everyone’s frustrated -- players, coaches, front office. We just have to be better. We know what we did last year, we know how good of a team we are.”
In particular, Davis sounded off on the Pelicans' defense vs. the Nets. Brooklyn scored 73 points in the first half, which included a 10-for-18 showing in 3-pointers. Brooklyn led by 18 after three quarters before New Orleans closed within five after a late flurry.
“We weren’t playing defense,” Davis said. “The whole first half, they did whatever they wanted ... we weren’t physical, weren’t talking. They got a lot of layups, a lot of open 3s. They shot the ball extremely well in the first half due to our lazy defense.
“We just talked in the second half, were a little more physical to the ball, rebounding, talking on the switches, stuff like that,” Davis added. “When we do that -- talking, helping each other -- we’re a good defensive team. But when we’re not, like we displayed in the first half, we can be one of the worst defensive teams in the league.”
Elfrid Payton scored 25 points for New Orleans in his second game back after missing more than a month with a broken finger. Julius Randle had 21 and Jrue Holiday 20, but the Pelicans got next to nothing from their bench.
Davis has scored 30 or more points 13 times this season, but the Pelicans are 8-5 in those games. Last season, New Orleans was 20-8 when he crossed the 30-point plateau. Last night's defeat marked the first time New Orleans lost with both Davis and Payton in the lineup (they were 5-0 when both played).
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.