Anthony Davis has the ability to make historic look routine.
The Pelicans’ All-Star forward produced a statistical line never seen in modern NBA history on Sunday night.
Davis became the first player in the league since at least 1985-86 to record at least 36 points, 14 rebounds, seven assists and nine blocks in a single game, according to basketball-reference.com.
Yet it wasn’t enough to lift the Pelicans over the Denver Nuggets, dropping a 116-111 double-overtime contest at the Smoothie King Center, falling a game behind Oklahoma City for the eighth and final playoff position in the Western Conference race.
Still, Davis was equal parts versatile and productive for the first 53 minutes of the game, before struggling in double-overtime. He missed both of his shots in the final stretch as Denver outscored the Pelicans 9-2 to wrestle away the win, as Davis eclipsed 49 minutes on the floor, his most playing time this season by more than six minutes.
“I kept playing defense,” Nuggets forward Kenneth Faried said. “A.D. was shooting a lot, making shots, but I stayed the course and I was able to finally get his legs to give out.
Until that final period, it was one of Davis’ best overall performances in his career. He became the go-to option for New Orleans down the stretch, converting three jumpers in overtime by shooting beyond the arms of Faried, following an eight-point fourth quarter which included a go-ahead jumper with 11.2 seconds remaining.
“He’s tough because he can do everything on the floor,” Nuggets forward Danilo Gallinari said. “He can shoot, he can drive, he can pass. He doesn’t have a lot of weaknesses in his game.
“He’s a stud.”
It’s hard to keep Tyreke Evans out of the lineup.
In a year marred by injuries to the Pelicans’ top contributors, Evans stands out for his reliability, despite a rash of illnesses, bumps, bruises and sprains.
On Sunday, he returned from a one-game absence to nearly record a triple-double, logging 25 points, 10 assists and nine rebounds despite playing on a shaky left ankle.
Evans severely turned the ankle during the Pelicans’ 114-103 win over the Milwaukee Bucks on March 9, and was helped off the floor by trainers who didn’t allow him to even put weight on the injured leg. It prevented him from playing in New Orleans’ win over Brooklyn the following night.
But, four days later, there was Evans taking his place in the starting lineup. Coach Monty Williams said it’s a tribute to his toughness, durability and passion for a team in the heat of a playoff chase.
“He’s one of the tougher guys I’ve been around when it comes to playing with pain,” Williams said. “There have been games here or there on the road when we thought he was going to sit out, but he goes there and has a big night and it’s like nothing was wrong with him. He has a pain threshold that’s not like a lot of guys in the NBA. He likes to play.”
And the Pelicans have needed it.
Playing without starting point guard Jrue Holiday since Jan. 14, Evans has taken over that role and largely changed his approach in order to handle it effectively, dishing 8.1 assists per game in the 26 contests following Holiday’s absence compared to 5.3 in the first 27 games of the season.
And despite the recent injury and being withheld from scrimmaging this week, he logged 43 minutes on Sunday.
“I’m sure his legs were a bit wobbly,” Williams said. “That was the first time he had gone full bore against a team that like that, that was going to go up and down. I wish we could have gotten him into the scrimmage the other day, but I thought he was fine, minus the (six) turnovers.”
New Orleans committed 18 turnovers in the loss, which Williams pointed to as the main culrpit for the loss...Center Omer Asik recorded a double-double midway through the third quarter, finishing with 10 points and 13 rebounds. He didn’t play in the final five minutes of regulation or either overtime...New Orleans missed seven of its first 14 free-throw attempts and finished 13-of-21 from the stripe.