This one is going to linger for a while.
When the buzzer sounded on the New Orleans Pelicans’ 139-117 win over the Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday, it not only marked a three-game winning streak and tied a franchise record for single-game scoring, it also started an extended nine-day break between games.
And several players admitted, the taste of winning makes coming back from the layoff more pleasant than the alternative.
“You want to go into the break with positive thoughts,” point guard Rajon Rondo said. “If you lose, you end up just thinking about what you could’ve done better and don’t have a chance to fix it right away. You don’t want to sit on a loss for a week. So you just want to want to take care of the crib and enjoy this week.”
And the Pelicans will rest easy until they return to action next Friday.
While the break isn’t quite as long for Anthony Davis, who is starting in Sunday’s All-Star Game in Los Angeles, it might be a blessing in disguise for the Pelicans’ red-hot power forward.
Davis posted 42 points in just 33 minutes and did it on an dazzlingly efficient 18 shots. He converted 15 of those in a variety of fashions, pulling up from 3-point range, leaning in on floaters, stepping back on jumpers and finishing dunks in traffic.
“I’ve played with a lot of great guys, who could score 20 or 30 but Anthony is a different level,” Pelicans forward Nikola Mirotic said. “You look up and he has 20 already. The way he plays is amazing. There’s just no way somebody can guard him.”
Davis also pulled down 15 rebounds, grabbed three steals and added two blocks while converting 10 of 11 free-throw attempts.
He has scored at least 38 points in each of the past three games, carrying the winning streak on his hot hand.
“AD just needs to score,” Jrue Holiday said, when asked to diagnose the Pelicans’ offensive resurgence. “Just turn to the basket. It’s that easy.”
But Davis didn’t act alone.
Holiday chipped in with 22 points, nine assists and four steals. Darius Miller was 4 of 5 on 3-pointers en route to 19 points.
And Mirotic bounced back from a scoreless first half to tally 16 points and seven rebounds. He arrived on the scene just in time to push a shaky 83-81 lead out to a 13-point advantage by reeling off a 10-point flurry in three third-quarter minutes.
“I told myself, ‘Niko just keep playing,’ ” Mirotic said. “I took some good shots and it’s not the first time I’ve been in that situation before of not scoring. I knew my game would come, I just needed to be aggressive.”
From the jump, the Pelicans played like a team deserving of a vacation. With the exception of a handful of Lakers runs, they dominated wire-to-wire, in their most complete performance since losing DeMarcus Cousins to a torn Achilles.
It began with one of the most eventful first quarters ever played in New Orleans.
The Pelicans' franchise-record 46 points served as the undercard. Then, not only did Davis briefly leave the court with a groin injury, Rondo and Lakers guard Isaiah Thomas were both ejected.
The pair have brief history, dating to each of their ties to the Boston Celtics, but nothing flared up until the final stages of the first quarter when an argument became increasingly heated and prompted officials call a pair of double technicals, bouncing both from the game.
With Rondo on the floor, the Pelicans opened a 12-2 lead in the first three minutes. By the midway point of the first quarter, the lead was 25-12 and ballooned to as much as 23 points.
Lakers coach Luke Walton called a pair of timeouts but it failed to slow the blazing fast Pelicans, who took their cues from Rondo, running with the floor and finding wide open shots.
The action didn’t slow down much upon his dismissal.
It allowed the Pelicans to keep pace in a bunched-up Western Conference playoff race. Entering Wednesday, the Pelicans, Thunder, Trail Blazers, Clippers and Nuggets all had 26 losses, placing New Orleans smack in the middle between contender and pretender entering the All-Star break.
It adds a level of urgency to each of the final 25 games — and if Wednesday’s game was any indication, they are capable of being contenders.
“I think we had a lot of motivation to get to this break and have the week off,” Holiday said. “I think everybody here is excited about it. Hopefully it will be momentum.”