Anthony Davis produces memorable 48-point game in Madison Square Garden

by Jim Eichenhofer

NEW YORK – A five-year NBA teammate of Anthony Davis, Jrue Holiday has now spent more seasons alongside the soon-to-be five-time All-Star than any New Orleans player. As a result, on numerous occasions Holiday has seen Davis and his otherworldly talent do things rarely seen on a basketball court. So on Sunday, when Holiday was initially asked about Davis’ 48-point performance at Madison Square Garden, the guard didn’t even sound impressed.

“I guess he didn’t want 50 (points) today,” Holiday joked in his postgame radio interview with WRNO 99.5 FM. “He missed a couple free throws. Fifty in the Garden, I feel like that’s a dream for most NBA players.”

Sure, Davis came up just shy of that magical scoring plateau and didn’t quite match Michael Jordan’s famous “double nickel” 55-point game at MSG. Still, Davis became the first visiting player since Jordan to post 40-plus points in consecutive trips to the “World’s Most Famous Arena.” It was the third straight time on the Knicks’ storied home floor that Davis tallied at least 35 points. The 48-point outburst led New Orleans to a 123-118 overtime victory, despite the Pelicans trailing by 19 points deep into the third quarter.

“It’s the Garden, so of course you want to have big games,” Davis said afterward of his knack for flourishing in the historic venue, which many NBA players list as their favorite arena. “But I just tried to help my team. We were struggling early as a team, missing shots and turning the ball over. We just weren’t being ourselves. So I just tried to get us going on both ends of the floor. I was able to just continue to make shots.”

Davis had already piled up 35 points, but a feeling that very good things were in store seemed to be confirmed when he fired in a 90-foot heave just after the third-quarter buzzer. The three-pointer didn’t count, but demonstrated that Davis had entered a "zone,” even able to sink a shot from as far from the basket as you can get while still standing inbounds.

“You never really make those, so when it went in, I kind of felt like tonight was definitely my night,” Davis said.

Davis finished 17/30 from the field and 12/15 from the foul line, scoring 32 of his points in the second half and OT. After forcing an extra period by dropping in a layup with 3.5 seconds left, perhaps his most difficult hoop of Sunday came at 1:07 of OT, when he drained a turnaround stepback jumper from the baseline over Kristaps Porzingis for a 120-117 lead. The Chicago native punctuated that score by turning toward New York fans and – in a gesture vaguely reminiscent of Jordan in the NBA Finals vs. Portland – shrugging, indicating that even he was a bit surprised that everything he launched was finding the bottom of the net.

“AD was just huge for us,” Pelicans third-year head coach Alvin Gentry said. “When he gets into zones like that, he’s really good.”

Davis noted that there was some payback involved while facing the Knicks, who’d overcome a late eight-point deficit in New Orleans two weeks ago to beat the Pelicans in unlikely fashion. New Orleans struggled mightily early Sunday, trailing 29-13 after a quarter and coughing up 13 first-half turnovers. Behind Davis, though, the Pelicans settled in and picked up a needed victory that was the difference between them sitting in sixth place instead of eighth in Monday morning’s Western Conference standings.

“It’s always tough to play these guys, especially on the road,” Davis said on postgame TV, after logging 50 minutes of playing time. “We knew that we needed this one, and guys just battled.

“I’m tired. But whatever we have to do to get wins. I’m young, but I’m definitely feeling this one.”

Not far away in what's arguably the NBA’s most revered building, Holiday (31 points) discussed Davis’ performance and why it’s special to play well and win in the Big Apple.

“It’s the mecca of basketball,” Holiday said. “No matter how many times you set foot in here, you still have that aura, that feeling about being the best player you can (be) and wanting to come out and score as many points and make as many plays as you can, and definitely get the win.”