MILWAUKEE — Anthony Davis’ teammates could tell early on the phenom was going to have a special game.
When the New Orleans Pelicans forward drained six first-quarter shots, it was obvious he was going to will his team to victory.
Davis tied his career high with 43 points, 23 in the second half, as the Pelicans used a 14-2 run in the final 3 minutes, 36 seconds to beat the Milwaukee Bucks 114-103 at the BMO Harris Bradley Center on Monday night.
Davis finished 17-for-23 from the field and also pulled down 10 rebounds for his 34th double-double of the season.
“He’s a great player right now,” Pelicans guard Norris Cole said. “He’s in a great rhythm. Glad to see he’s healthy. He’s showing why he’s a superstar. He carried the load tonight and we needed it. He came up big.”
It’s Davis’ fourth game back after missing five games because of a right shoulder sprain. In those four games, the 21-year-old is averaging 33.5 points.
Davis isn’t a stranger to having scoring binges against the Bucks. He came in averaging 23 points in three outings, the third highest total against any team during his young career.
Cole, who scored 11 points off the bench, had a sense in the first quarter that Davis’ great night was just starting.
“I was joking with someone on the bench, he had like 12 early in the first quarter and it was coming effortlessly,” Cole said. “His jumper, his mid-range jumper is so pure. Once he gets that rolling, he’s pretty tough to stop him.”
Davis wanted to get his teammates involved early, which was evident by his four first-half assists.
“He’s sharing the ball,” Pelicans coach Monty Williams said. “He had six assists tonight. He probably coach have had more. (It’s) the way he’s doing it, versus double teams, in transitions. I think a couple times he got fouled on his jump shots and he didn’t let it bother him tonight. Anytime you can get 30 on the road is big. He had 43 against a really good defensive team.”
The Pelicans, which came into Monday night just one game back of Oklahoma City for the last playoff spot in the Western Conference, also got 16 points from Eric Gordon. Tyreke Evans, who left the game in the fourth quarter with a left ankle injury, had 13 points.
The Bucks, which are currently in sixth place in the Eastern Conference race, got 29 points from Giannis Antetokounmpo and 25 from Michael Carter-Williams.
The Pelicans (35-29) held a 13-point second quarter lead, 41-28, but that vanished when the Bucks (33-30) took their first lead of the game, 101-100, since a slim 10-9 advantage in the opening quarter.
That’s when Davis took over. A 20-foot jumper from the elbow and a one-handed runner put the Pelicans up three with 2:33 remaining and it was 104-101 New Orleans. After a basket by Carter-Williams, Davis — who else? — hit two free throws and a clutch jumper at the top of the key with 50.9 seconds remaining to make it 108-103. Cole knocked down four free throws in the final 38.1 seconds to to ice the win.
The Pelicans, which shot 58.7 percent on the night, ended the game on a 14-2 run as the defense had three big stops in the final minute.
“We just stick together and our team had good defense and offense -- and we played good, solid ball in the fourth quarter,” Gordon said.
Davis said he wasn’t trying to take over the game in the last three minutes, he’s just aware of his team’s playoff chances.
“I just know what position we are in and we’ve got to win games, so I wasn’t trying to lose tonight. That was my mindset,” Davis said. “Especially with Tyreke going down, I know that guys lean on me more. I just try not to let the team lose or let that lead get away.”
Toast for the Coast
The Pelicans will host Toast for the Coast at 7 p.m. Friday at the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas. All proceeds from the event support coastal restoration education and research.
Guests can interact with the players, including Davis, and enjoy a performance from Robin Barnes with the aquarium’s exhibits as the background. The party will include hors d’oeuvres, cocktails and a silent auction.
Visit Pelicans.com/toastforthecoast for tickets and more information.