Anthony Davis may have started, but he didn’t finish.
The seemingly unhappy All-Star center started tonight’s game at the Smoothie King Center in a 131-122 win against the hot Oklahoma City Thunder, but a shoulder injury just before halftime sidelined him the rest of the game, and perhaps, for the rest of his career as a Pelican.
TNT’s Lewis Johnson got video of AD leaving the building around halftime with his arm inside his shirt, accompanied by Nola’s most hated agent LeBro... sorry, Rich Paul.
From our own Oleh Kosel in tonight’s game thread page (emphasis mine):
With the game on primetime (7 p.m. and on TNT) and AD likely eager to make amends for one of the worst lines of his career right before the All-Star break, expect Davis to show plenty more inspiration. Also, keep in my mind that there’s a small chance this could be his last game this season as I’ve heard some rumors circulating around today.
Regardless of AD’s situation, the Pelicans forged on, scoring early and often against one of the league’s top defenses, totaling 22 first-half assists in an excellent offensive display from mulitple stars including Jrue Holiday (11 points) and Julius Randle (14 points). Nola ended the first half up 66-63, having shot 55 percent from the field and 50 percent from 3. Jrue finished with 32, 5 rebounds and 7 assists; Randle totaled 33 points, 11 rebounds and 6 assists and a number of huge buckets in the last 5 minutes.
The first half was enjoyable, too, with a massive Frank Jackson dunk, some nice Thunder minutes from Dionte Burton — OKC’s fan favorite — and excellent one-on-one matchups between Holiday and MVP candidate Paul George.
Coming out in the second half, both teams had new starting fives; the Pels were of course without AD, but OKC also switched out Patrick Patterson for Nerlens Noel, who was at his offensive best throughout most of the night. Noel was even paired with center Steven Adams for a bunch of minutes, which may be a look they give in their playoff run.
Jrue Holiday made some more shots and turned Thunder turnovers into points. Okafor contributed and Darius Miller, despite shooting 3 of 7, had positive impact and made some slick passes, finishing with 5 dimes. Okafor and E’Twaun Moore, who temporarily exited due to a banged knee, missed a combined two shots on the night. All in all, the ball popped around and the Pels finished with 35 assists.
In no time, Nola was up 91-74, but OKC wouldn’t go away. Russell Westbrook finished with 44 points, 14 rebounds and 11 assists, splitting his points evenly between the halves.
Eventually, OKC had multiple chances to even the game, but misses by Terrance Ferguson and Paul George late in the game, and a huge offensive foul by Steven Adams, along with endless buckets by Julius Randle, sealed the win for the Pels. Crunch time offense devolved into a lot of Jrue Holiday one-on-one opportunities - hats off to Ferguson for handling Holiday in a number of attempts, but Randle was there to pick up the slack.
The Thunder played without starting power forward Jerami Grant and sixth man guard Dennis Schroder, giving more minutes to Abdel Nader, Patrick Patterson, Raymond Felton and Nerlens Noel. OKC’s depth will only get stronger as reports have them adding Markieff Morris from the buyout market. This team can be deep, defensive-minded and tough as any in the west, despite what they did tonight.
Randle was right
Julius Randle made all the big plays at the end, starting with a big tip-in of a wide open Kenrich Williams 3-point miss. He then cut to the basket to receive a pass from Jrue to keep the lead, then made a tough fadeaway after struggling to gather. He would miss two big free throws with 27 seconds to go, but he had done enough. Earlier in the night, he single-handedly produced offense with dribble drives that resulted in dump-offs in the post or kick-outs to the 3-point line. He was excellent.
The Davis injury
Davis played 15:51 in the first half and certainly looked a lot better than he did in a 3-point outing in a terrible loss to the Orlando Magic earlier this week. He had 14 points and 4 rebounds on 5 of 10 shooting before attempting to block a shot late in the first half.
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Geaux All-Star Break!