Davis wills Pelicans to win over Thunder
NEW ORLEANS — Anthony Davis insisted he wasn’t tired, but his normally reliable jump shot said otherwise.
In a game of survival and mental toughness, Davis played 44 1/2 minutes overall — including all 24 minutes in the second half after DeMarcus Cousins was ejected in the third quarter for a flagrant foul — and scored a game-high 36 points and carry the New Orleans Pelicans to a 114-107 victory Monday night at the Smoothie King Center.
“I’m good,” Davis said after spending 45 minutes in the trainer’s office after the game. “Guys stepped up and made big plays. It was tough losing (Cousins), being one of our star players, but anything is liable to happen in a game, so we were ready to play.”
Davis played the entire second half because the Pelicans (9-8) really had no other choice after Cousins was tossed for throwing his right elbow into the neck of Thunder guard Russell Westbrook while trying to clear out after a rebound. Cousins pleaded with the refs that it was inadvertent, but after a replay review, Cousins was given a flagrant-2 foul and sent to the showers.
The Thunder (7-9) led 76-72 with five minutes left in the third quarter when Cousins was sent to the locker room. Davis scored 14 points in the final 17 minutes, and although he certainly appeared tired late in the game when several of his jumpers came up short, he got to the foul line a career-high 22 times and made 18, helping New Orleans break a two-game losing streak.
Davis also grabbed 15 rebounds.
“He was tired,” Pelicans guard Jrue Holiday said, laughing. “That’s what Anthony does. He’s been doing that since I’ve been here.”
Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry, “When we lose a guy like DeMarcus, (Davis) steps up and puts the whole team on his back, and he just wasn’t going to let us lose. He was tired. He was dog tired, but he found a way still to get a couple of baskets.”
Although Westbrook recorded his fifth triple-double of the season with 22 points, 16 rebounds and 12 assists, the Thunder once again could not hold on to a large lead. They were on top by 19 points six minutes into the game but allowed a 29-10 Pelicans run to tie the game at 35.
New Orleans point guard Rajon Rondo, playing just his fourth game after rehabbing from sports hernia surgery, logged a season-high 31 minutes and finished with four points, eight assists, two rebounds and a steal. Most of those stats came in the final nine minutes after the Pelicans held just a 91-87 lead.
Rondo said he knew Davis was feeling the effects of playing entire second half.
“You play 24 straight minutes, any athlete would probably be tired, especially the way we were going to him,” Rondo said. “He’s in every pick-and-roll, and he was making plays for us on the offensive end as well.”
Paul George scored a team-high 26 points for Oklahoma City.
Westbrook said he was disappointed with another blown lead.
“You can talk, (but) talking don’t do anything at this point,” Westbrook said. “We got to go out and play. You can talk as long as you want to, but guys got to take personal pride and understand how important it is to go out and compete and not take it for granted.
“As players, you go out on the floor, and sometimes you take it for granted and don’t realize how important it is and embracing the moment. Each individual guy has to do that every night.”
Added Thunder coach Billy Donovan: “They come to practice every day, they work hard, their attitude is good, their chemistry is good, they’re doing it, but we’ve got to be able to sustain a high level of play,”
Gentry did not think Cousins’ elbow on Westbrook was intentional.
“It’s an unfortunate thing, but I don’t think it’s anything that’s going to hurt Russell Westbrook,” Gentry said.
NOTES: Thunder coach Billy Donovan said G Russell Westbrook, F Carmelo Anthony and F Paul George are getting more comfortable playing together. “That’s going to be something that’s probably going to take some time,” he said. “Last year, Carmelo was trying to carry the Knicks. Same thing with Paul (in Indiana). Russell was trying to carry us. Now that you bring those guys together, they’re all in different roles.” ... New Orleans coach Alvin Gentry shook up his starting lineup, going with a three-guard look that included E’Twaun Moore replacing F Dante Cunningham, who has been struggling. Moore scored 12 points. ... Pelicans F Anthony Davis, who sustained a bruised right orbital bone, played while dealing with the lingering soreness from getting hurt Friday in Denver.