NEW ORLEANS (AP) With a quick step to his left, Anthony Davis bolted from the man he was supposed to guard and launched himself toward the backboard in time to swat away Ty Lawson’s driving layup.
As the crowd erupted, Davis knocked the ball off the glass and back into his hands. With 1:14 to go in overtime, Davis’ sixth block also became his 17th rebound. That, along with his 32 points – which tied a career high – proved too much for Denver to overcome, and the Pelicans held on for their third straight victory, 111-107 on Sunday night.
”I don’t think I was supposed to (guard Lawson),” Davis said of his pivotal block. ”I just tried to make a basketball play. Coach (Monty Williams) tells us all the time, `If you’re going to do something like that, you better go get it.’ Thank God I got the rebound. It got us hyped and it was a play that we needed down the stretch.”
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Williams was delighted and amused by the play because of how it fit the theme of pregame banter he had overheard between Davis and his teammates.
”It’s funny because they were just talking about before the game how he wanted to just go up and grab it out of the air like Patrick Ewing used to,” Williams said. ”I was like, `What are you guys talking about? Where is this conversation going?’ And then he makes a play like that, so it shows you how much I know.”
For Davis, it was one last historic performance before he’s old enough to legally accept someone’s offer to buy him a drink for all he’s done in less than two seasons of basketball in the Big Easy. Since the Pelicans were founded as the Charlotte Hornets in 1988, no one had racked up as many points, rebounds and blocks in the same game as Davis did against Denver.
”That’s a testament to my team. They’re giving me the ball where I can score and cutting hard so their man can’t help, making big shots, playing defense, having my back if I try to go block a shot, boxing out and letting me get the rebounds,” said Davis, who turns 21 on Tuesday. ”It all goes to the team and not just me. I can’t do it by myself.”
Indeed, Davis pointed out that his overtime heroics, which included four crucial free throws, never would have happed if not for teammates like Anthony Morrow, whose 14 points included a 15-foot pullup in the lane that tied the game at 94 with 1 second left in regulation.
Morrow had to save a ball tipped away from Davis, then had to get off a shot over the taller Lawson.
”He’s a great defender. He was up under me, so I just wanted to make sure I got to where I wanted to get to and just knocked the 15-footer down,” Morrow said.
Tyreke Evans, meanwhile, added 20 points, his fifth straight game with 20 or more.
Kenneth Faried had 22 points and 10 rebounds for Denver, which had won its previous two games and led by as many as 16 in the second quarter.
Aaron Brooks scored 12 of his 15 points in the fourth quarter, nearly rescuing Denver from its collapse.
After being up by as many as 13 points early in the second half, Denver had fallen behind by seven in the fourth quarter before Brooks scored six straight on three free throws and a transition 3-pointer. Later, his clutch, weaving drive around Davis for a scoop off the glass put Denver in front 94-90 with 1:20 left. But Brian Roberts’ free throws, followed by Morrow’s clutch jumper, sent the game to overtime.
”It wasn’t the end, it was the third quarter. We let them get back in the game,” Faried said. ”It’s something about us and this team this year. We don’t have that killer instinct quite yet.”
There were nine lead changes in the overtime thriller between two teams well out of playoff contention, but playing with pride.
Davis’ deep offensive rebound and assist on Morrow’s 3 made it 100-98, and Davis exuberantly held three fingers in the air as the ball went down, only to see Lawson convert a quick three-point play on a driving layup as he was fouled to give Denver the lead right back.
Roberts followed with a jumper for New Orleans, then Wilson Chandler nailed a 3 to put the Nuggets back up by two. Evans’ layup tied it for the eighth and final time at 104 before Davis’ free throws gave New Orleans the lead for good.
Lawson finished with 15 points, Chandler with 14 and JJ Hickson 12 for the Nuggets, who outshot New Orleans 47.1 percent (40 of 85) to 45.6 percent (41 of 90), but hurt themselves 27 turnovers.
”We’ve just got to do a better job of taking care of the ball, and our role mentality, the things we talk about when you’re playing your role – fundamentally, boxing out and doing the things that we need to do to win this type of game,” Denver coach Brian Shaw said.
NOTES: Davis has surpassed 20 points and 10 rebounds in a game 22 times this season, and he has 30 double-doubles. … The Nuggets resume their five-game road trip Monday night in Charlotte, followed by games Wednesday in Orlando, Friday in Miami and Saturday in Atlanta.