I've got good news and bad news, New Orleans Pelicans fans. You want the bad news first? OK, here goes: the Pelicans won Sunday.
They outlasted the Boston Celtics in overtime, 121-120, bouncing back from blowing a 13-point lead with 5:35 remaining in the fourth quarter to find themselves on top after a five-minute extra session thanks to the Celtics' inability to stop late-game pick-and-roll penetration by Tyreke Evans (five points in OT, 26 with four rebounds, four assists and three steals overall). The win improves New Orleans to 27-39, the 11th-worst record in the NBA; therein lies the bummer, because every win the Pelicans manage reduces their lottery odds, making it more likely that their first-round pick won't fall within the top five in the forthcoming 2014 NBA draft. If New Orleans' pick lands in the top five, Dell Demps and company keep it; if it doesn't, they ship it off to Sam Hinkie's Philadelphia 76ers as part of the 2013 draft's Nerlens Noel-for-Jrue Holiday swap. Every win, at this point, hurts.
Now, about that good news ... did you see Anthony Davis on Sunday?
The Pelicans' All-Star big man and burgeoning monster continued his recent rampage with a career-high 40 points and 21 rebounds in the win over the Celtics. It was just the 18th 40-20 game of the last 29 seasons, as the sophomore joined Charles Barkley, Larry Bird, Joe Barry Carroll, Patrick Ewing, Mike Gminski, Dwight Howard, Moses Malone, Antonio McDyess, Shaquille O'Neal, Hakeem Olajuwon and Chris Webber in the distinguished dozen who have accomplished the feat. Factor in Davis' three blocks and three assists, and the list shrinks to six — Shaq, Hakeem, Ewing, McDyess, Carroll and Davis.
Davis is the second-youngest player to put up a 40-20 since the 1985-86 season (Shaq, 1993), and the third-youngest ever (John Drew of the Atlanta Hawks did it twice in 1974-75, according to the Elias Sports Bureau). He joins Bird and Malone as the last three guys to put up 40-20 while going at least 10 for 10 at the foul line, according to ESPN Stats and Information; the 2012 No. 1 pick has now made 33 consecutive free throws dating back to the fourth quarter of New Orleans' March 9 win over the Denver Nuggets, and is shooting 78.7 percent from the stripe as a just-turned-21-years-old big, which is ridiculous.
Even more ridiculous, as Pelicans head coach Monty Williams sees it? That this kind of thing could happen an awful lot more in the very near future. From John Reid of the New Orleans Times Picayune:
"I think he can do this 10 to 15 times a year because he is so gifted and does things for the right reason [...] Obviously he has great athletic ability but some of that stuff is just him. We try to put him in a position where he can be a dominant player. When you go for those kind of numbers (40 points and 21 rebounds) that's a lot of God-given talent.
"At the end, he could've dunked the ball, but he has enough savvy to know that you just have to run the clock out. It's not about stats. Everything he does is about the team and trying to help us win."
Davis had 26 points and 15 rebounds after halftime on Sunday, and you can feel free to keep your "Yeah, but it's just the Celtics" to yourself, because that is still 26 points and 15 rebounds after halftime. He didn't score in OT, but he ripped down six defensive rebounds, controlling the boards and limiting Boston's chances while giving the Pelicans a chance to attack the Celtics before they were totally set, helping Evans and Eric Gordon to find openings that led to buckets and free throws that locked down the win. Davis hit the offensive glass hard to clean up teammates' misses, he protected the rim to make life difficult on Boston shooters, he ran the floor to stretch the defense in transition, he made contested jumpers and awkward floaters ... he did everything. It was pretty awesome to watch.
"I'm just trying to finish the season out, you know? Trying to get more wins," Davis said after the game. "My teammates are telling me they feed off my energy and they want me to be great. I can't be great if I don't go out there and perform and try to do whatever it takes to help my team win."
The Pelicans' season has been anything but great, due in part to campaign-wrecking injuries and in part to questionable coaching. But with each passing game — Davis is now averaging 32.3 points, 14.3 rebounds, three blocks and 2.8 assists on 57.9 percent shooting over his last six contests — the Pelicans' top gun makes a more and more compelling argument that he's not just "on his way" to stardom.
As Celtics coach Brad Stevens said after the game, according to Reid of the Times Picayune, "You know, I came into the game in January thinking, yeah, he's an All Star, and I leave here after twice playing him saying, 'If there is are 10 guys better in the league, I haven't seen them.'" Told you there was some good news, Pelicans fans.
If the clip above isn't rocking for you, feel free to check out highlights from Davis' big night elsewhere, thanks to Dawk Ins.
- - - - - - -