Monty Williams starting Greg Stiemsma? No problem. Al-Farouq Aminu called for a non-existent foul in the final minute? No problem. Kris Humphries hits a prayer over an outstretched AD? No problem. Anthony Davis would not allow this team to lose tonight. Here is the list of players 21 and younger to record 40 points and 20 rebounds. Tomorrow when Basketball-Reference updates, Anthony Davis will also be on that list. That game also went into overtime for those who might use the extra frame as an excuse.
It is the first 40-20 game in Hornets/Pelicans history. For a franchise who once employed Alonzo Mourning, Larry Johnson, and David West, that took me by surprise. He also scored 28+ for his sixth straight game, breaking the record held by Glen Rice. In his last six games Davis is averaging 32.3 points, 14.3 rebounds, and 3 blocks on 57.8% shooting from the field. That is ridiculous.
On a day when tanking teams looked to Jabari Parker (23 points on 24 shots in a loss to Virginia) for the future, New Orleans fans already know theirs is here. At any level, 40 points on 22 shots is better than 23 points on 24 shots. Considering the 40 point game was accomplished in the NBA and the 23 point game was accomplished in college there is no comparison. Ceiling, floor, potential, what have you. Anthony Davis is the best player to come into this league since either Kevin Durant or LeBron James. No one in this draft is on that level. No one.
Greg Stiemsma returned from his benching (reasons unknown) to start tonight. Not only start, but play long minutes throughout the first half. Not just long minutes, Greg Stiemsma led the Pelicans in minutes during the first half. The first quarter was played relatively evenly, but it was the second quarter (and Monty Williams again playing five bench quality players together) where things came apart. That "all-bench" unit (although Stiemsma was the one starter Monty has discovered how to stagger) gave up a debilitating 14-2 run before Williams put some starters in with around six minutes to go.
The starters (thankfully) were able to play roughly even with Boston in those final six minutes to take the game to the locker rooms down seven points. The final 29 points scored by Boston came at the rim (8), the foul line (9), or behind the arc (12) for the Celtics in the second quarter. Defending the Green Triangle has to be a point of emphasis going forward for the Pelicans. Sustained runs by opponents getting to the most efficient parts of the court have become far too common for a team with a "defensive" coach.
In the second half, the Pelicans finally tightened down the screws defensively, allowing only 20 points in the third quarter. Anthony Davis began to take over with 12 points of his own and Eric Gordon contributed 8 points and 2 assists in the frame. Boston attempted 10 mid-range jump shots in the quarter, which turned into just 4 points. A 10-0 run out of a timeout, of all things, put the Pelicans in control, with Davis and Gordon scoring all ten, six of which came at the foul line.
The Anthony Davis show continued into the fourth quarter as he scored another 14 points, setting a new career best (40) for the night. More on points 39 and 40 later. The Pelicans built their lead up to 13 points with the score 102-89 by driving the lane and getting to the free throw line. Suddenly, for no rhyme or reason, all of that action stopped. The next three possessions were long jump shots and the Celtics (going to the rim) quickly cut the lead down to five in a minute and a half.
Timely threes from Jeff Green (who put up 39 tonight) and Jared Sullinger (all my sadness and regret) continued to cut into the lead. Green cut the lead to one point with just 38 seconds left and coach Brad Stevens elected to play defense. Austin Rivers got to the basket but was blocked by Sullinger. The loose ball ended up in the arms of Sully and Al-Farouq Aminu. The jump ball and resulting soccer display felt almost like tanking from Boston. Brian Roberts calmly knocked down two free throws and we all thought the game should be about over.
The officials had other ideas. A phantom "foul" on Aminu led to three Jeff Green free throws. I do not see where the foul occurred, although Aminu could have helped himself by not reaching for the ball at waist level. Green knocked down all three free throws and the game was once again tied. Monty Williams elected to go back to the same play they ran against Denver at the end of regulation to isolate Anthony Davis. The Unibrow did not disappoint, burying a 17 footer which should have sealed the game. Then the luck of the Irish came calling for the Celtics with Kris Humphries hitting a fall away prayer on Davis as the clock expired to send the game to overtime.
The overtime period was pretty ugly. Both teams were tired and it showed. Over the first two minutes, just three points total were scored, all at the foul line. Brian Roberts pitched in the first made field goal of extra time with 2:53 remaining to put the Pelicans up one. Two Celtic missed threes and two Tyreke Evans layups (he scored five points in this overtime to go with the seven he scored against Denver) extended the lead to five. The Celtics refused to give up (yet) as Sullinger buried his second three of the night to cut that lead to two again.
Tyreke had two consecutive ugly turnovers and Boston had a chance. But two open Sullinger threes failed to find the bottom of the net. With just seconds remaining, Eric Gordon pushed the Pelican lead back out to four. Al-Farouq Aminu and Austin Rivers again entered for defensive purposes, a welcome improvement for Monty. Aminu had other plans, softly fouling Green on a drive to the basket with less than six seconds to go. It was one of those cases where a player should foul (and do so hard) or not foul at all; Aminu chose the dreaded middle path.
The final play was a beautifully designed play to set up Davis on the far side of the court. Boston overplayed the screens and Davis was wide open near the basket. Instead of dunk the ball home, Davis passed the ball back to the top of the key and the Celtics found their tanking hopes (and possible desire to get to Bourbon Street) were stronger than the idea of extending the game any further as the Pelicans dribbled out the clock.
- The remaining "Big Three" for New Orleans had a great night. Davis had 40 points, Tyreke Evans scored 26 (and shot better than 50% from the field again!) and Gordon chipped in with 19.
- Tyreke Evans since he first started against Phoenix is averaging 21.8 points, 6.3 assists, and 6.1 rebounds a game while putting up a 52%/40%/86.4% shooting line in eight games. The Pelicans are 4-4 in those eight games and the only blowout was at the Clippers (who are currently waging nuclear warfare on the league).
- Jeff Withey played 29 minutes tonight, including a boatload of high leverage minutes in the fourth quarter. He only scored 2 points, but added 5 rebounds, 3 assists (including an amazing alley-oop to AD) and 3 blocks.
- Eric Gordon has missed four games this season.
The Pelicans will wrap up this home stand on Wednesday against Toronto, regular start time at 7PM local.
Did I mention Anthony Davis is awesome?