Red-hot Davis, Pelicans go for 8th in row at Dallas

There’s no question who’s leading the fast-charging New Orleans Pelicans to the playoffs now.

Anthony Davis, the Western Conference Player of the Month for February, has carried the Pelicans to a seven-game winning streak going into Sunday’s game against the host Dallas Mavericks at American Airlines Center.

For much of the season, it appeared the combo of Davis and All-Star center DeMarcus Cousins would be the catalysts, but that all changed when Cousins suffered a ruptured Achilles to end his season.

The Pelicans would lose five of its next six games, putting a postseason berth in serious jeopardy, not to mention the psyche of the team.

At that point, the ranks closed in.

“We’re very close,” Davis said, according to “When (Cousins) went down, we had to become even more close because guys had to step up. This is probably one of the closest teams I’ve ever been on. … These guys really like each other. They like playing with each other. When we have a team like that, we can be tough to beat.”

Davis has more than done his part. In February, he led New Orleans to an 8-3 record by averaging 35.0 points, 13.0 rebounds, 2.5 steals and 2.2 blocks, ranking first, third, first and second, respectively, in the NBA in those categories for the month.

Davis became the first player since Moses Malone (1982) to average at least 35 points and 10 rebounds in a calendar month (at least 10 games played). Additionally, Davis posted five 40-point, 10-rebound games, the most in a calendar month in the last 35 years.

During the Pelicans’ current seven-game winning streak, Davis has averaged 39.3 points and 15.0 rebounds, becoming just the fifth player in NBA history to average at least 35 points and 15 rebounds during a win streak that long, joining Wilt Chamberlain, Elgin Baylor, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Moses Malone.

New Orleans coach Alvin Gentry admitted the season could have gone either way once Cousins was lost, but team leaders such as Davis, Jrue Holiday and Rajon Rondo helped pull the team together.

“They said, ‘Hey, we’ve still got a chance to accomplish what we want to do,'” Gentry said. “I think it took them a few games to get their footing and understand that roles were going to change a little bit. … We’re playing hard, but we’re playing for each other. That’s the big thing.”

The Mavericks (19-44) have dropped 16 of their last 20 games, including Friday’s 108-100 loss at Chicago. Dallas had an early double-digit lead against the Bulls but faltered down the stretch.

The Mavs were outscored 30-15 in the fourth, which has been a familiar tune all season. Dallas is the league’s worst team in crunch time.

“We’ve been in plenty of close games this year,” said forward Dirk Nowitzki, who scored 18 points against Chicago. “Unfortunately, we haven’t really found ways of holding on consistently. Otherwise, we’d be in the playoff hunt.”

Dallas and New Orleans have split two games this season, each winning on the other’s home court.

New Orleans signed guard Walter Lemon Jr. to a second 10-day contract. Lemon, 25, joined the Pelicans after signing a 10-day contract on Feb. 21 and has played in three games.