After the first 12 minutes of basketball played at the New Orleans Arena tonight, everyone in the building, as well as those of us watching at home, knew we were watching something truly special. It wasn't until the final buzzer sounded that it sunk in (for me) just how special a performance Anthony Davis put on tonight.
His final stat line: 25 points, 8 rebounds, 6 steals, 6 blocks, and 4 assists. Since the 1985-86 season (when Basketball Reference started including steals, blocks and rebounds in the game logs), only one player in the regular season or playoffs has matched the stat line of at least 25 points, 8 rebounds, 6 steals and 6 blocks in a game. That player's name is Hakeem Olajuwon.
Had Davis been able to get the one measly assist he needed to obtain the mythical 5x5 stat line (at least 5 in all 5 major statistical categories), he would've been the first player since Hakeem did it in 1993 to score at least 20 points in a 5x5 game.
The bottom line is this: Anthony Davis Superstar is here folks. And he's not going anywhere.
Davis was incredible from the get-go, going assist (Holiday three), lay-up, jumper to start the game for New Orleans. At the end of the first quarter he already had 14 points, 5 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals, and 2 blocks, while hitting all 6 of his free throws and going 4 of 5 from the field. He continued his stellar play into the 2nd half, throwing down alley-oop after alley-oop, connecting with Roberts, Evans and Gordon on flushes that made Blake Griffin and the Clippers jealous.
But AD's defensive play was just as stellar (if not more amazing) as his offensive game. Taking advantage of his length and athleticism Davis put on a defensive clinic, and showed that as an all-around talent -- there may not be a better player on both sides of his floor whose ceiling is as high as his.
As for the rest of the Pelicans, lets not forget their contributions to a much-needed victory, the team's first after a pair of disappointing losses:
- The team set a franchise record with 18 blocks in the game, rejecting shot after shot (and in some cases swatting dunk attempts) by the Bobcats. Jason Smith and Greg Stiemsma each set a personal-best with 5 blocks apiece, and Eric Gordon got into the block party with two of his own. Smith rejection of MKG at the rim in particular was a fist pump-inducing event that let fans know they were in for a treat on the defensive end tonight. Smith and Stiemsma both had their best games of the young season; Smith adding 8 points and 3 boards on 3-of-8 shooting while finally knocking down some of his patented mid-range jumpers on the pick and pop that alluded him in Orlando last night. Still not as efficient a night as you'd like to see from Smith (and the team/2nd unit will need his scoring with that shot, especially when defenses are giving it to him like the Bobcats did tonight) but he looks like he's getting his stroke back. And Steimsma, who's awful preseason and first two games has been well-documented, made good use of his 16 minutes of playing time as well, adding 6 rebounds to his block total. You'll take that production from your backup center any night.
- Tyreke Evans finally made an impact! After a dormant first couple games, including an 0-for-7 night in Orlando, Evans showed a glimpse of what impact he can have as the 2nd unit playmaker/initiator of the offense. While his efficiency was still below what you'd like to see (6-for-16 from the floor -- taking some bad jumpers throughout the game) he did attack the basket and penetrate Charlotte's defense on a regular basis. Backup PG's and SG's in this league won't be able to contain him on most nights, and that means good looks for his running mates, as evidenced by open jumpers by Davis, Morrow (3-pointer) and Smith in the 1st half and a couple Roberts' threes and another Morrow jumper in the 2nd half. You add Ryan Anderson to the mix as soon as his big toe heals, and all of a sudden that 2nd unit becomes even more dangerous with their ability to space the floor from 4 positions and the dynamic Evans running the show.
- The starting backcourt had their least productive game as a duo, but both played solid if not spectacular ball in their time on the hardwood, with Gordon only getting 21 minutes to Holiday's 32. Jrue does seem to be pressing the issue at times out of the pick and roll and making some poor decisions when he's in mid-air or has nowhere to go with the ball, but creativity as a player and ability to hit shots from all over the floor is obvious. I am loving his pull-up jumper game and he's doing a good job of taking what the defense gives him. Again if Monty can find a way to coax as much skill as possible from Holiday's game with play-calling and lineup management (especially when Anderson returns), we should see even better results from Jrue.
- The bench as a whole played well, excluding Lance Thomas, who continued to befuddle me with his play at times (he ran into Tyreke on one of Evans' drives and screwed up a potential kick-out/open three for the offense). You have to think Lance's minutes will get soaked up by Anderson, if not spread out to the likes of Morrow and Aminu, so hopefully Thomas joins Withey and Rivers as limited minute players for the future. But Roberts and Morrow showed their talent as floor-spacers and Roberts in particular continues to improve with the ball in his hands, showing off a nice floater as well as a renewed chemistry with Davis (sorry, I couldn't help myself haha. FLY PELICAN FLY). I know I'm not the only person who wants to see the offense run more plays/find more looks for Morrow, whose stroke is as deadly as Anderson's and adds to the lethality of the 2nd unit once Ryan returns.
After blowing their lead in the 4th quarter of their opening-night loss to Indiana and the drubbing they absorbed last night at the hands of the Magic, it was clear the Pelicans dearly needed a win with 2 days off before their next game, a home tilt with the 2-0 Phoenix Suns. While there is still clear room for improvement in all phases of the game (not to mention the addition of a top 5 player on the team), the team's win tonight showed they had put last night in the rear view mirror and can take care of business at home against an inferior opponent. That will be crucial to this team's playoff hopes as the season progresses. But if Anthony Davis can continue to average 20 and 10 and fill up the box score as he has done the first three games of 2013, this team should put more tallies in the W column than in the L column. As basketball junkies and scholars of the game, we shouldn't use the word "superstar" lightly. It is a select group in every era that deserves that title. After tonight, Anthony Davis may have joined that contingent.