Pelicans' Davis asserts himself against Bobcats

Peter Finney Jr., The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

NEW ORLEANS -- In the blink of an eye, Anthony Davis chased down the ball near midcourt, tipped it back into play and wound up flat on his back in a padded seat near the scorer's table.
That was only the half of it.
Seconds later, at the other end of the court, the New Orleans Pelicans' phenomenal second-year forward raced behind the Charlotte Bobcats defense, soaring high for a dunk that put an exclamation point on the statement he is making across the NBA: look out world.
Davis scored 25 points and had a career-high six blocked shots to power the Pelicans to their first victory of the season, a 105-84 win over the Bobcats on Saturday night at the New Orleans Arena.
The Pelicans set a franchise record with 18 blocks overall, but the postgame talk was all about Davis' hustle and energy.
"When Anthony makes those big-energy plays, it gives everybody energy, it picks everybody up," said Pelicans point guard Jrue Holiday, who fed Davis for the alley-oop dunk that gave New Orleans a 56-39 lead late in the first half. "If we're down, it makes us want to get after it even more."
Davis, who has scored at least 20 points in the first three games of the season, said he is just doing what comes natural for him. Coming off a lackluster defensive effort in a 110-90 road loss at Orlando on Friday night, the Pelicans (1-2) needed his emotional spark to get their first victory of the season.
"I'm just trying to hustle and do everything my team needs me to do to win, whether it's diving on the floor, diving in the stands, trying to save the ball and getting a transition bucket," Davis said. "That's what I'm going to do. You've got to have that mentality to win games."
Pelicans coach Monty Williams said the NBA's No. 1 overall pick in 2012, who made huge leaps during this summer by building up his body and extending his shooting range, is just beginning to figure things out.
"He's doing it every single night, but I still think he can be better," Williams said. "I want him to attack the basket more. Obviously, I love the points and the rebounds, but he's only scratching the surface as to where he's going to be as he gets stronger and learns how to draw more fouls."
Davis ended up just shy of a third consecutive 20-point, 10-rebound game, finishing with eight boards.
Davis showcased his extended shooting range by hitting a 20-footer near the top of the key to push the Pelicans' lead to 68-49 midway through the third quarter, but Charlotte responded with a 7-2 run to cut the deficit to 70-56. That was as close as Charlotte would get the rest of the game.
With the score 81-67, reserve guard Brian Roberts hit a 20-footer and then followed with a four-point play, making a 3-pointer from the left baseline despite a touch foul by Kemba Walker and then hitting the free throw. That extended the Pelicans' lead to 87-69 with 8:12 left.
Charlotte coach Steve Clifford said the Bobcats (1-2) had no answer for Davis.
"He's got great versatility, and he's playing with a lot of juice," Clifford said. "He can play well at both ends of the floor."
The Pelicans got 15 points from Tyreke Evans, who drove the ball to the basket in order to pull out of a shooting slump, and 14 points from Holiday.
The Bobcats were paced by Ramon Sessions, who came off the bench to score 22 points, and Kemba Walker's 14.
Charlotte might have had a chance to stay close but made only 21-of-36 foul shots.
"Guys have to step up and make them," Clifford said. "Pat Riley used to say this is a make-or-miss league. I wouldn't absolve myself of responsibility, but guys have to step up and make free throws."
Davis' first-half stat line was a thing of beauty: 16 points on 5-of-7 shooting from the field, 6 of 6 from the foul line, six rebounds, two blocks and two assists. Jason Smith his career high with five blocks - all in the first half.
NOTES: Bobcats C Al Jefferson, who reaggravated his right ankle injury in the season opener, missed his second consecutive game with a bone bruise. "It's the same thing -- he's day to day," Clifford said. "We'll wait to see how he's feeling when we get back to Charlotte, and we'll get a better idea and do treatment." ... The Pelicans have struggled defensively. They allowed Orlando 55.7 percent shooting from the field on Friday night in falling to 0-2. "Sometimes you just have games like that," Holiday said. "We got off the shots we wanted and they didn't fall. They were knocking down everything." ... Evans is still working himself back into shape after missing most of the preseason with an ankle injury. He was 2 of 15 from the floor in two games.

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