As the post-All-Star break portion of the NBA schedule begins tomorrow, the New Orleans Pelicans sit in the No. 8 spot in the Western Conference. However, they are just 1/2 a game ahead of the LA Clippers and 1 1/2 games ahead of the Utah Jazz, which makes keeping the No. 8 spot no given for the Pelicans.
The lion’s share of the responsibility in maintaining that playoff perch falls on All-Star big man Anthony Davis. He’s doing even more of the heavy lifting for the Pelicans after fellow All-Star big man DeMarcus Cousins was lost for the season to an Achilles injury. In an interview with ESPN’s Rachel Nichols, Davis said he saw more than just playoff potential in his squad — he could see an NBA Finals run in the mix with himself and Cousins leading the charge:
“We could have gone through the playoffs. No one could really stop us as bigs. We go to the Finals if we went,” Davis told ESPN’s Rachel Nichols in an interview over All-Star weekend.
“[Teammate Rajon Rondo] reminds us of it: ‘You guys are the two best bigs. I know what it takes to win championships; we got it.’ ”
“When he goes down, it’s, all right, it goes back to AD before DeMarcus, a lot of minutes, weight of the world on your shoulders,” Davis said. “You know, you gotta carry the team on your back, you gotta almost get 40 every night for us — to give us a chance to win.”
Davis said he has been mirroring Russell Westbrook’s approach to keep the Pelicans in the playoff picture. They are 4-5 since Cousins’ injury, compared to 27-21 before that.
“You kind of have that Russell Westbrook mentality when [Kevin Durant] went out,” Davis said. “Russ just went out there and played, and he shot 40 shots sometimes, you know, whatever it takes to help your team win, and I’m kind of taking that approach.”
Last season, Westbrook averaged a triple-double and was named Kia MVP en route to powering to the Oklahoma City Thunder to the playoffs. However, Westbrook couldn’t do it all in the playoffs and his Thunder were eliminated 4-1 in the first round by the Houston Rockets.
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