If Atlanta’s win over Golden State has us all already looking forward to what could be a brilliant and unexpected 2015 NBA Finals, the home-and-home two-game series the New Orleans Pelicans and Oklahoma City Thunder gave us this week should have us petitioning the NBA to force these two teams to play a seven-game series for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference this spring.
The Pelicans entered Friday night just a game in back of the Phoenix Suns for the final spot out West, with the Thunder just a game in back of New Orleans in the same race, beaming from a road win over Pelicans while working without Kevin Durant on Wednesday evening. Russell Westbrook managed a career-high 45 points in that impressive road victory, and with Durant returning from a toe injury and the scene shifting to Oklahoma City for Friday night, one would think the Thunder would have this contest well in hand.
After all, Westbrook scored 48 points in this one, topping that career-high from Wednesday. Look at this:
Russ Westbrook joins Larry Bird as just the 2nd player to tally 48 points, 11 assists, 9 rebs & 4 steals in an NBA game.— Tommy Beer (@TommyBeer) February 7, 2015
Didn’t matter. Watch:
Yes, that’s New Orleans forward Anthony Davis nailing a 3-pointer – his first 3-pointer of the season, mind you – to shock the Thunder on their home floor. Oklahoma City had done well to come back to tie the game behind Durant’s late 3-pointers (he finished with 27 points) and Westbrook’s clutch three free throws with 1.8 seconds remaining, but you can’t stop the MVP.
Yes, the MVP.
Anthony Davis is the NBA’s Most Valuable Player thus far. He might be working on a team that is currently out of the playoffs, but he’s also averaging ridiculous numbers for a Pelicans team that is sifting its way through the tough Western Conference on most nights, helping to lead NOLA despite a series of injury woes this season. The Pelicans are currently on pace for 45 wins.
Davis managed 41 points, 10 rebounds and two blocks in the win. Though this was just his first 3-pointer of the season in nine attempts, and though he entered the night having missed 21 of 23 career looks from long-range, this shot can’t be considered much of a fluke. It might be a sign of things to come.
Anthony Davis, in his third season, has developed into a brilliant jump shooter – as this feature from Grantland’s Kirk Goldsberry details. This isn’t a case of some youngster becoming more confident in taking what the defense gives him; rather, Davis’s touch from the perimeter is a go-to staple of his rarely nationally televised game. He’s not quite at Dirk Nowitzki-levels just yet, but he’s bettering studs like LaMarcus Aldridge percentage-wise, and the guy is just 21.
Double-clutching 3-pointers at the buzzer, with the similarly sized Durant helping to change his shot, won’t become the norm as Davis’ career moves along. That doesn’t mean Davis doesn’t have the skills, fundamentals and athletic gifts needed to do what you saw above on some nights.
He’s not a prospect anymore. In a season featuring an injured Durant and a sometimes-there LeBron James, Davis has moved to the front of the pack in the MVP race.
For those that have been paying attention, he was there well before nailing this winner on Friday night.
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