‘He’s able to get rebounds other people can’t get’: Anthony Davis shattered team record with 26 boards

by Jim Eichenhofer
@Jim_Eichenhofer

On one of their defensive possessions Wednesday, the Brooklyn Nets seemingly had Anthony Davis right where they wanted him, walling him off from a potential rebound with two bigs simultaneously boxing out the five-time All-Star. It didn’t matter. Davis leaped diagonally for the ball and extended his arms, easily pulling the ball away for one of his franchise-record 26 rebounds.

“He’s able to get a lot of rebounds that other people can’t get,” said Pelicans teammate Julius Randle, himself the NBA’s 19th-best rebounder at 9.3 per game. “He just makes it look really easy. He’s skilled, bouncy, long, athletic.”

In increasing his 2018-19 rebounding average to 13.4, Davis authored the best single-game board work in New Orleans’ 17-year history, partly due to a relentless approach. The Pelicans trailed by 18 points entering the fourth quarter, but Davis yanked down 11 rebounds in the final quarter alone. Of Brooklyn’s 14 missed shots in that period, he grabbed nine defensive rebounds (the Nets offensive rebounded two of them and won the game 126-121).

“The biggest thing was he wanted it,” said Pelicans forward Nikola Mirotic, sidelined Wednesday by an ankle injury. “I saw his face after he got his 20th with five minutes left, and he looked like he was going to get at least five more. He got a couple huge ones offensively, to get us back in the game. I’m not surprised, to be honest. With his athleticism and the way he wanted it that night, it was just impressive.”

Mirotic – who averages 9.2 rebounds and would rank 20th in the league if he had enough games played to qualify – remembers quickly noticing Davis’ all-world ability on the backboards.

“He has great instincts on where the ball is going to bounce,” Mirotic said. “Is it going to bounce right or left off the rim? When I was first traded here, I remember we had a game in San Antonio in the last seconds where he came up with an offensive rebound to win the game. He did that against (LaMarcus) Aldridge, and Aldridge is a beast. Just a big-time play.”

First-year Pelicans center Jahlil Okafor pointed out that part of what makes Davis so difficult to stop on the boards is his anticipation and natural ability, which can easily negate textbook positioning by the opponent.

“He just finds a way to position himself in the right spot,” Okafor said. “And then even if you’re in better position than him for a rebound, him being such a freak athlete and having such long arms, you still might lose that battle.”

En route to his record-breaking performance at Barclays Center, Davis piled up 19 points and 17 rebounds in the second half alone, along with two blocks. As Okafor noted, that’s often just another half of work for the NBA’s third-leading scorer and fourth-leading rebounder – but not for just about any other player.

“At halftime, he has 20 and 12 sometimes and you have no idea (until you look at the stat sheet),” Okafor said. “That’s a hell of a game for anybody else. I’ve known Anthony for a while, but this is the first time for me of getting to see him on a daily basis. What we’re witnessing is something that is going to go down in the history books, for sure.”