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Accepting new role helped Anthony Davis rip through epic stretch while carrying Pelicans

From NBA media reports

The surprise team of February, by a mile, was the Pelicans, who regrouped after losing DeMarcus Cousins and suddenly find themselves within striking range of third place in the West while on a seven-game win streak. That sounds so strange, considering the inconsistency of the club and the deepness of the West.

Of course, there’s the matter of Anthony Davis ripping through an epic stretch where he’s doing everything possible for his team and also throwing his hat into the MVP race as well. But the Pelicans are also moving the ball, getting decent play from Jrue Holiday and E’Twaun Moore, and simply producing at the right time.

This bodes well for coach Alvin Gentry, who’s had to deal with injuries from the day he took the job. If nothing else, a playoff berth should reduce the rumors about his job status.

Scott Kushner of the New Orleans Advocate took a deeper dive into the Pelicans’ main advantage:

Anthony Davis’ spectacular play has grabbed national attention, winning Western Conference Player of the Month, and prompting NBA media to suddenly debate his Most Valuable Player credentials. During this winning streak, Davis is averaging 39.3 points, 15 rebounds, three steals and 2.7 blocks per game. He’s done it while shooting an efficient 53.5 percent from the field and 39.1 percent on 3 pointers.

Needless to say, he’s been excellent.

And a large portion is attributable to flexibility in accepting his changing role and versatility to execute it at an extraordinary level. While Davis’ trend is similar to what he did when teamed with Cousins’, his usage has risen dramatically, playing more than 70 percent of his minutes at center, rather than his preferred power forward spot.

It’s why, since Cousins’ injury, Davis is averaging nearly 12 more touches per game in the front court, 2.1 more at the elbow and is driving to the basket at more than double the previous rate. This is the byproduct of playing more off of Jrue Holiday as a small-ball center rather than as an accompanying floor-spacer with Cousins.

Both were effective, but this version amplifies the volume on Davis’ numbers to unseen heights. And the Pelicans have needed all of them.

“I’m just doing whatever this team needs me to do in order for to win,” Davis said earlier this week. “That’s all that matters to me. I’ll play center or I’ll play forward. It really doesn’t make a difference as long as we are winning.”