Anthony Davis had blocked the shot. On this night, with these stakes, it wasn’t enough.
And so after Davis snuffed out a perimeter jumper by the Spurs’ LaMarcus Aldridge, the Pelicans forward dove into the crowd at the Smoothie King Center in the fourth quarter Friday night, saving the ball off Aldridge and giving the Pels possession.
It was just one play in New Orleans’ 104-90 win against San Antonio. But it wasn’t just any other play.
“He kind of sealed the (game),” point guard Ish Smith said. “That kind of pushed us over the top. A.D., he’s your best player, top-five player in the NBA. To do that and set the tone, knock the ball off of him, there’s only one guy that can do that, and that’s him. That was special for him to do that.”
The play was part of a 20-point, 18-rebound game for Davis, who returned after a nearly two-game absence with a shoulder injury, and it was emblematic of the night for the Pelicans (2-11), who played with the effort they’d displayed in a loss at Oklahoma City on Wednesday, but with the firepower to finish it off.
Ryan Anderson had 30 points and seven rebounds off the bench, Smith had 13 points and 13 assists, and the Pelicans — the first team this season to lead the Spurs entering the fourth quarter — snapped San Antonio’s six-game winning streak.
“We finally played for the whole 48 minutes,” Davis said.
OK, maybe 46.
The Spurs came out firing in the first quarter, scoring the game’s first eight points and leading 11-3 early. But the Pelicans rallied to take a 48-41 lead at halftime, withstood a San Antonio run in the third quarter and pulled away in the fourth, outscoring the Spurs 26-16.
“It’s our best game by far, and it’s the first kind of complete game that we’ve played this season where I thought we were aggressive from the start,” Gentry said. “I thought we made good decisions. I thought we played at a pace that we like to play at.”
That fourth quarter was critical for the Pelicans, who have struggled this season to close out games. Anderson and Smith scored nine and five points respectively in the fourth, and Davis took command in the quarter, scoring seven points, grabbing six rebounds and blocking the only two shots he swatted in the game.
One of those was the block on Aldridge that didn’t lead directly to points but gave the Pels an emotional boost during an 11-2 run that saw their lead balloon to 14 points.
“Plays like that kind of get us fired up and kind of got us going,” Davis said. “It kind of gets everybody going on the defensive end, just talking and being aggressive.”
The Pelicans held San Antonio to 36.8 percent shooting in the fourth quarter and 40.5 percent shooting in the game. They controlled the backboards 53-43 and held Tim Duncan to no rebounds in 20 minutes, the first time in his 18-year career the Spurs star failed to grab a rebound.
The win was significant for the Pelicans — not because it came against the Spurs, who boast the NBA’s second-best record — but because Gentry said his team needed a win to show for its effort.
It got a signature one Friday. The goal is to turn it into the foundation for more.
“We just wanted a win,” We could’ve played a 12th-grade team. Just getting a win feels good. We’ve just got to build on it. Just keep playing hard, keep playing with all that energy, all that emotion like we did tonight, and it’s going to turn around for us.”