Davis leads Pelicans past Spurs
NEW ORLEANS — As the numbers continue to pile up, it’s hard to believe that Anthony Davis is just 24, a “baby” in the eyes of New Orleans Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry.
Davis added another chapter to his precocious march through the NBA on Wednesday night, scoring 29 points and grabbing 11 rebounds in New Orleans’ 107-90 victory over the San Antonio Spurs.
The Pelicans outscored the Spurs 68-30 in the middle two quarters to erase an early 15-point deficit.
Davis’ offensive output pushed him past point guard Chris Paul into second place on the franchise’s all-time scoring list. With 7,938 points in a little over five seasons, Davis is about 30 games away, at a 25-point-per-game clip, from overtaking forward David West (8,690) as the Pelicans’ all-time leading scorer.
Seemingly just like that.
“It’s not even a full six years, and (I’m) 24, it’s great,” Davis said. “It’s definitely humbling, and the fact that we did it off a win is a great thing.
“Yeah, this is early and it’s humbling, but I’m not trying just to stop there. I want to bring championships here. I want to do way more. For me, this is just one of the many accomplishments I’m looking forward to getting.”
Gentry said what has amazed him about coaching Davis for the last three seasons is the big man’s insatiable appetite to improve himself and his willingness to accept coaching.
“Obviously the years that he’s had here from the time he walked into the franchise, he’s always played great,” Gentry said.
“The thing that I like about him is that every year he’s gotten better. Every year he’s added something to his game, and he’s still a baby. That’s what I think everyone doesn’t realize. He’s (24) years old. He’s still a baby, and he’s got a ton of basketball left.”
For the ninth time this season, Davis and DeMarcus Cousins each scored at least 20 points and grabbed at least 10 rebounds in a game. Cousins finished with 24 points and 15 boards, but he said the real star of the team was his younger former Kentucky teammate.
“It kind of speaks for itself,” Cousins said. “The guy’s a superstar.”
The Pelicans (10-8) recorded their first victory this season against a team with a winning record. The Spurs (11-7) had won four of their previous five games.
The Pelicans trailed by 15 points in the first quarter, but they held the Spurs to 13 points in the second quarter and 17 in the third to open an 87-59 lead. In one extended stretch, they outscored the Spurs 85-42.
“They won three quarters and we won one,” San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich said. “Something tells me that’s not enough. They were the more aggressive team, and they made shots.”
In the second and third quarters, the Pelicans shot 57.8 percent (26 of 45) and held the Spurs to 29.3 percent shooting (12 of 41). San Antonio went 1 of 13 from 3-point range in the middle two periods.
The Spurs got 19 points from Rudy Gay, 17 from Pau Gasol and 16 from LaMarcus Aldridge.
San Antonio raced to a 17-2 lead in the first quarter when New Orleans missed 11 of its first 12 shots. A Cousins dunk ended that streak.
“We have to execute better, and we have to play better defense,” Aldridge said. “We fouled them a lot and got to the rim a lot. We weren’t able to take anything away.”
The Pelicans overcame deficits of 19 and 15 points in the first half of their past two victories.
“We were a half a step slow offensively on our cuts and our dribble handoffs,” Gentry said. “For some reason, we like to play from behind.”
Pelicans point guard Rajon Rondo, who is playing himself back into shape after missing the first 13 games rehabbing from sports hernia surgery, said he likes the team’s trajectory.
“We’re still finding a rhythm and finding one another,” Rondo said. “We’ve had two practices in six weeks. We’re going on the fly as far the games. That’s why our turnovers were high, but as of late we’re continuing to take care of the ball and play for one another, on both ends of the court.”
NOTES: Spurs coach Gregg Popovich has been asked countless times about when F Kawhi Leonard might return from a quad injury. “I keep saying sooner rather than later,” he said. “It’s kind of like being a politician, you know. It’s all baloney. It doesn’t mean anything.” ... Asked about G Tony Parker, who is also out with a quad ailment, Popovich smiled and said: “I think he’ll be back very soon — real sooner than later.” ... New Orleans coach Alvin Gentry is not buying into the notion that this is a post-Spurs NBA. “They’ve been a pain in the — you know what I’m talking about — for the last 15 years or so,” Gentry said. “I don’t ever take anybody serious when they say, ‘This is it for the Spurs, they’re on their way down.’ Every time they say that, they end up winning 55, 60 games.”