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Anthony Davis rewrites and revisits history in season-defining 114-110 come-from-behind win against OKC Thunder

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Davis’ lone playoff appearance of his career was cemented with a buzzer-beater 3 in Oklahoma City. Tonight, while grabbing the top spot on the franchise scoring list, he ended the Pelicans’ post-Boogie skid with a series of big threes in that same building.

NBA: New Orleans Pelicans at Oklahoma City Thunder Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Yesterday morning, I was feeling like a shorthanded Pelicans team would likely struggle to keep pace with the Oklahoma City Thunder. However, as my day developed I began to have a better feeling about this match up. It started with memories of that classic buzzer-beating win in 2015 which propelled the New Orleans into the playoffs for the first time since the Chris Paul era.

But it wasn’t just that.

Anthony Davis had a chance to take his claim of the franchise leading scorer spot with 32 points. Knowing the Pelicans would be shorthanded, knowing Davis was hearing questions of his effort after the Kings debacle, knowing that he knew help in the form of Nikola Mirotic was on the way and knowing he wouldn’t want this huge moment in his career to be marred by a loss, I started to believe that he’d not only get the record, but that he’d go bigger — and that the team would need him too.

Also, we knew that the Thunder were coming off of a heartbreaking loss in Denver, where Gary Harris hit the game winner while wearing Paul George’s signature shoes to put a shit ribbon on a pretty exhausting road trip — despite that narrative that traveling doesn’t matter.

All of this had me feeling really bold in a DM chat with Oleh Kosel and Preston Ellis, but not bold enough to give put it out in the general public yet. I was ready for their ribbing — not yours.

Then I saw AD’s shoes and I knew. They were, “I’m about to be the franchise leader in Points, Rebounds and Blocks at the age of 24” fresh.

This would be a game that would be sloppy at times and poorly officiated at times, but never lack energy, excitement or action. It was filled with drives to the rim, pick and rolls, alley-oops, big dunks, Jrue Holiday being a defensive force and big three point buckets.

Let’s revisit.

The much-maligned Rajon Rondo provided some instant impact in one of his best performances of the season with a strip of Russell Westbrook that bounced into the hands of Jrue Holiday who opened up the scoring on a transition step-back three.

Jrue immediately displayed his real value in this game by forcing Paul George into a turnover in back-to-back turned over possessions for the Thunder. Holiday would stay in George’s head all night like Jim Halpert earworming The Cardigans’ “Lovefool” into Karen Filippelli’s head with the help of Andy Bernard — PG13 would finish 4/16 from the field with two turnovers and a negative 11 plus/minus (and if memory serves correctly only two of those makes came with Holiday on the court).

E’Twaun Moore would get struck by a flint from three shortly after and stay ignited the entire contest. Jrue would then find a cutting Davis with a beautiful pass for one of Davis’ seemingly hundreds of dunks.

Despite some early turnovers, the Pelicans’ energy was evident.

After starting their scoring with two threes, the Pelicans were living inside of the arc, and were running more pick and rolls than I can remember them running this season — if you follow my writing or my Twitter account, you know this is something I’ve been begging for. Kumar agrees.

That hope I had earlier was growing, but doubt would set in as Moore picked up a second quick foul and Ian Clark would take his place.

This doubt was immediately justified.

Rondo would create another turnover leading to a possession filled with beautiful ball movement as the Pelicans swung it all over the court, but a once beautiful possession would end with an absurd double dribble by Clark. Also, some tough defensive possessions would crop up where Carmelo Anthony got a favorable switch with Rondo guarding him and ate him up for a bucket. Shortly after, Westbrook would barrel through Rajon for a three-point play. However, Jrue would find Davis again for an awkward alley-oop tip in before getting some rest. Immediately, the Thunder would go on a 7-0 run with Jrue on the bench, including a Melo strip of Rondo that resulted in a huge dunk from Russ, followed by a huge dunk from Steven Adams off of another Pelicans turnover.

Darius would end the bleeding with a pull up long two. Questionable officiating would rear its head when Paul George traveled by spinning into Dante Cunningham in the lane, drawing a blocking call on Dante.

Davis would close out the 1st quarter tentatively, settling for long twos as he was seemingly scared of Adams under the rim early on — a fear that was rationalized when AD did try to attack only to have Adams block his attempt at the basket.

The momentum was with the Thunder.

However, Holiday would return and bring much needed intensity on the defensive end. We would see the classic bigger man thinks he has an advantage on a smaller guard as Carmelo tried to attack Jrue in the post. He’d fail on his first attempt that was well contested by Holiday, but Anthony would stick with it and eventually get a tip in — rebounding was a huge advantage for the Thunder early.

Jrue would get revenge later when he and Cheick Diallo would team up to block Melo at the basket. However, Dante would bobble a pass in transition and the Thunder would get an easy cherry-picked bucket because Anthony never made an attempt to get back on defense. As disheartening as possessions like this are, we were seeing positive Diallo minutes — minutes that were filled with hustle and energy.

The first quarter would end with Jrue locking up PG-13 preventing a shot at the buzzer.

The second quarter would have an ominous start.

Diallo turned the ball over and Jerami Grant got free for an alley-oop from the ghost of Raymond Felton. Jrue would continue to attack the basket, but he couldn’t convert. Holiday struggled to score tonight (33.3% from the field), but his impact was felt on the defensive end and as a shot creator (11 assists), leading to his team best +32 plus/minus.

Felton the Flabby Ghost hit a floater next in the lane over Diallo, who didn’t even get a hand up — the ups and downs of a young player with extremely limited basketball experience — giving OKC a 16-point lead after capitalizing off of numerous Pelicans turnovers.

It looked like we were on our way to the logical fan and writer’s prediction of how this game was going to go. However, E’Twaun Moore would return and he and Darius Miller would show why they are two of the most efficient scorers in the league.

Moore floater. Miller three. Moore pull-up. Moore extremely tough three to cut the OKC lead to 8.

However, the Pelicans would hit another lull — a turnover gifted Steven Adams an easy bucket. This bucket gave the Thunder a 17-3 advantage in points off of turnovers. The Pelicans were their own worst enemies. Anthony Davis was showing frustration with no-calls in the paint. Josh Huestis would seemingly block Davis’ shot by putting his arm through the rim — something the officials would completely miss.

Alvin Gentry wasn’t having it.

Adams and Westbrook would connect on an alley-oop rooted in on-court chemistry.

The momentum Moore and Miller had swung on the back of Jrue’s tireless defense was starting to erode. However, Mike James would snag a rebound off of a Rajon Rondo missed three and find Davis for a big dunk.

While Adams was doing a good job on Davis for most of the first half, you could see AD was starting to take this one on his back. He’d battle for a board and his fight would be rewarded with a foul. Then Rondo would find him for another dunk. Russ would answer with one of his own.

However, while Davis was taking over — Moore was taking a brief break from greatness. He’d have a step on the baseline turnover and then he’d pick up the Pels’ 10th turnover with a travel.

Still, the Pelicans would not go away. Rondo would get a chance for a three-point play that stayed a two (free throw shooting was scarce and poor — 69.2% on 13 attempts for the contest). Dante Cunningham would break character and give the Pels second chance points — yes, he got a rebound — DRINK!!! E’Twaun would made up for his momentary lapse into a turnover machine with great defense on Steven Adams creating a transition alley-oop. 6-point game. Then Moore would get a layup in transition. 4-point game.

The Thunder would exploit Moore’s lack of size and get a baseline dunk from Jerami Grant. Davis would convert two at the line keeping the deficit at 4.

We were all feeling good, but you couldn’t blame us for also being cautious.

Despite well deserved doubts, the game was riveting. Even the halftime show would provide drama.

The dreaded third quarter would open with Westbrook and Davis exchanging dunks. Jrue would continue to dominate Paul George — completely taking him out of his game. AD forced OKC into an extremely quick timeout off an emphatic dunk — inching up the franchise scoring leader board.

After the timeout, Rondo fills in admirably for DeMarcus Cousins, picking up a charge on Carmelo Anthony — which gets Melo a tech...that Holiday misses. However, E’Twaun is still engulfed in flames.

After an Oklahoma City turnover, Dante Cunningham benefits from beautiful passing in transition for a great finish. Pels up 63-60.

Holiday, again, smothers PG-13 on defense.

NBA: New Orleans Pelicans at Oklahoma City Thunder Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Jrue then blows by George to finish at the rim. Moore follows that up with another dagger three.

The Pelicans would continue to control the tempo and momentum. Rondo would find Davis on another alley-oop. Jrue would get to the rim. Westbrook blew what would have been a top 10 dunk of the night by clanging it off of the rim.

Lifelong Pelican nemesis Alex Abrines would stem the tide, hitting a three to cut the Pelicans’ lead to 10. AD would answer right back with a three of his own.

With Jrue Holiday getting a breather, Paul George would would find some room and answer with a three of his own. Then he’d follow up a classic E’Twaun Moore floater with another easy bucket.

Darius would negate the damage with a catch-and-shoot three off of a cross court feed from Rondo — who had his best game in a very a long time.

Westbrook was having an empty calorie triple double, and Melo and George were shells of their best selves.

However, Steven Adams continued to cause problems for New Orleans in the paint.

In the second half, we were also treated to more good minutes from Cheick Diallo. He’d get a smooth finger roll and-1 off of a Holiday assist.

The Pelicans finally put together a third quarter you can bring home to your mother.

After a fast paced and dramatic third, could a shorthanded Pelicans squad keep playing with this energy?

Abrines opened the scoring with a three. Darius answered right back. Anthony Davis would begin his fourth quarter dominance and march into the history books by abusing Patrick Patterson. However, Diallo didn’t get the memo that you are supposed to ride your star down the stretch and cutely stole a rebound from AD.

Patrick Patterson took Davis’ abuse very poorly and put up back-to-back air balls. Joel Meyers pulled no punches.

Jrue extends the lead by charging to the rim off of a Davis screen.

The Ghost of Raymond Felton gets frustrated and is handed a tech. Davis converts.

This leads to the moment that everyone who skipped parades because ball is life was waiting for.

Following history being written, Patterson is still rattled and misses badly. Adams camps in the paint, and shoves Rondo in the back for an offensive rebound put-back that is rewarded with a foul. Ball didn’t lie.

Westbrook gives the Pelicans a break by not attacking a rim begging to be assaulted and turning the ball over for a transition alley-oop from Jrue to Davis off of the Rondo hockey assist.

Rondo then follows this up with a monologue of a corner three — no basketball players were even in the frame.

Despite a few missed bunnies from the Pels and some questionable calls, New Orleans continued to stiff arm the Thunder.

After a huge offensive foul on Carmelo Anthony, Jrue Holiday and Anthony Davis would run a pick and roll to get Jrue an easy lay in. Russ would answer with a pull up three that gave Thunder fans hope. Davis would immediately crush that hope with a three of his own.

He’d then team up with Dante to strip Adams. The ball would end up in E’Twaun’s hands and Davis would bury the Thunder like he did in 2015 with another three pointer. 114-110.

This was a game of heart, heart that was questioned after the loss to Sacramento. While Davis will deservedly get the headlines and glory for his scoring, it was the Pelicans’ defense that carried this team to victory — a defense that was anchored by Jrue Holiday. A defense that held the Thunder to 100 points on 38% shooting — just 25% from deep — despite giving up numerous easy points off of turnovers in the first half and 15 offensive rebounds. Holiday continued to make his case for an All-Defense honor with a textbook performance.

Also, E’Twaun Moore and Darius Miller were snipers tonight regaining that December stroke. Even the oft maligned Dante Cunningham and the previously uncooked Cheick Diallo made key plays.

This was a total team win.

A signature win.

A win that I believe we will look back on — not only for the history made, but also as playoff spots are seeded — much like in 2015 — as a season changing victory.

Next up, we hope to carry this momentum over into Minnesota where we will be met by reinforcements — Nikola Mirotic — let’s start the 3Kola era off with some deserved payback.