After unprecedented 45-17-5-5 line, Anthony Davis in midst of his best four-game stretch of NBA career

by Jim Eichenhofer
@Jim_Eichenhofer

The site of New Orleans’ Sunday afternoon road game may be known as the home of the “Greek Freak,” but after Anthony Davis put up a first-of-its-kind stat line Friday, Pelicans teammates were forced to use a similar descriptive, attempting to put into words a 45-point, 17-rebound, five-block, five-steal performance.

“AD was already playing a high level, but he’s really doing freakishly, crazy things,” said incredulous Pelicans center Emeka Okafor, who returned to the NBA on Feb. 3 after a five-year hiatus. “I’d see him (play previously) from my couch essentially, but now to watch him in real life, I’m sometimes caught up in it. It’s like, ‘You are really, really talented. You are really good.’ ”

Astonishment has been an appropriate response to what the “American Freak” is doing during an active four-game winning streak by New Orleans (32-26). He’s averaging 42.3 points and 14.8 rebounds, with games of 44, 38, 42 and 45, the highest-scoring four-game span of his NBA career. His 45-17-5-5 vs. Miami had never been achieved since the league began keeping track of blocks as an official statistic in 1972-73.

“It’s just him being great,” Pelicans guard Ian Clark said. “That’s what we expect from him. We know he’s going to make some tough shots, but we need him to do that, especially if we’re going to win close games.”

Indeed, Davis has been so prolific over the past month, repeatedly going for 40-plus points, that it sometimes doesn’t automatically register when he puts up extraordinary numbers. It is starting to become routine.

“I thought he’d had a pretty good game,” Pelicans third-year head coach Alvin Gentry said after the OT win over Miami, “but I looked at the stat sheet and couldn’t believe he had 45 points. That’s not really a good thing, because now you almost take him for granted. You’re not going, ‘Wow, he had 45!’ ”

Okafor has been in the starting lineup next to Davis in the New Orleans frontcourt for just three games, but he’s already putting him in the same company as some of his previous elite teammates.

“I’m very impressed,” Okafor said. “I played with John Wall, Chris Paul, top-tier talent. AD, with all of the things he’s doing, seemingly effortless, smooth, but for him to be so polished – not only on the court, but off the court, he’s a great dude, a great leader who embraces the role and takes it very, very seriously. He talks the talk and walks the walk. I respect that.”

Davis struggled by his lofty standards in the immediate aftermath of DeMarcus Cousins’ season-ending injury last month. The 24-year-old recently noted that a conversation he had with Cousins made Davis reconsider his on-court approach; he’d been trying to play like Cousins instead of being himself. Cousins told Davis to get back to being aggressive offensively.

“When (DeMarcus Cousins) first went out, I was overthinking, trying to do things I wouldn’t normally do,” Davis said Friday, minutes after high-fiving courtside Pelicans fans in celebration of edging Miami. “Now I’m just playing basketball, relying on a lot of instincts and a lot of confidence. I’m just trying to make the right play, whether it’s for me or my teammates. Everyone’s confidence is up right now. We’re just playing together, and we’re generating wins off of that.”

A five-time All-Star, Davis is no stranger to epic individual performances, including a 59-point night at Detroit and various unprecedented stat lines involving points, rebounds, blocks and steals. But his recent run is arguably the greatest for him in the NBA. How long can he continue to produce the otherworldly numbers he’s generated over the past four games? A reporter asked Davis that following Friday’s 45-17-5-5 eruption.

“Ask me that question after we (play the fifth and sixth game),” Davis said, grinning, as he looked ahead to a Sunday/Monday back-to-back vs. Milwaukee and Phoenix. “(On Friday his numbers came in only) 41 minutes, and that was with the overtime. Coach is doing a great job keeping my minutes down, and he takes me out at different times. I have to make sure I take care of my body, especially with this little stretch coming up (of a lot of games).”