It was important, Anthony Davis said, that the Pelicans not take a step back on Sunday against the Phoenix Suns.
In the end, he wouldn’t allow it.
Davis’ 3-pointer with 54.5 seconds to play broke a tie for good, and he finished with 32 points, 19 rebounds and four blocked shots in the Pelicans’ 122-116 win against the Suns at the Smoothie King Center.
“I think he invites those situations,” coach Alvin Gentry said. “I like the fact that he wanted the ball in crunch time.”
Davis delivered in what had been a back-and-forth game. The Pelicans had double-digit leads in both halves, but despite what Gentry called a good defensive effort — the Suns shot 38.9 percent and got 22 points in the paint compared to New Orleans’ 44 — Phoenix kept coming back.
The Suns did it mostly thanks to a big effort from Eric Bledsoe, who scored 29 points, and with sharp 3-point shooting. Phoenix was 17-of-36 from 3-point range and started the game 16-of-26.
Bledsoe’s two free throws with 1:13 to play tied the score at 109 and set up Davis’ heroics.
Davis caught the ball on the right side of the floor, defended by Markieff Morris, and drew a double team from Bledsoe. He gave the ball up, got it back and drew the double again from Bledsoe.
Davis dribbled left, gave the ball up to Ish Smith, got it back behind the 3-point line near the top of the key and let it fly.
His shot swished.
“That’s next-level stuff for Anthony,” said forward Ryan Anderson, who scored 29 points. “Those are shots that — when you look at his career, he’s made huge shots. Just to be confident enough to take a shot like that, we all knew it was going in. It’s Anthony. He’s a clutch guy. That’s why he’s a superstar.”
He played like one Sunday, drawing chants of “M-V-P!” from the SKC crowd. Davis’ four blocks included what Gentry called an “amazing” block of a Mirza Teletovic 3-pointer from the left corner in the final minute with the Pelicans leading by three.
Davis needed plenty of help to pull the Pelicans (3-11) to their second straight win. Anderson fell just short of his third straight 30-point game, making 8-of-14 shots and 4-of-7 3-pointers. Smith scored 17 points, grabbed nine rebounds and dished out eight assists. Eric Gordon scored 20 points.
And the Pelicans made 10 straight free throws to close the game after Davis’ 3-pointer, part of a 15-for-15 fourth quarter from the foul line.
There were quiet plays, too, that made a difference.
Davis struggled to find his shooting touch much of the game. He was 6-of-16 from the floor in the first three quarters before making 5-of-6 shots in the fourth, and Anderson said he could see the frustration on Davis’ face.
“Alonzo (Gee) had a pump-fake, wide-open layup he could have made, and he passed it right off for an easier look for (Davis) to get him going,” Anderson said. “That kind of stuff, that stuff pumps me up, just to see a guy sacrifice that much.”
Big plays from his teammates set up Davis for the game’s big moment, and he delivered, coming through on a broken play and making perhaps the biggest shot of the Pelicans’ season.
Davis took the shot the Suns wanted, coach Jeff Hornacek said. And he sank it.
“We had a pretty good defensive effort there,” Hornacek said. “But he stepped up and hit the big shot. That’s what players like him do in those moments: step up for their team and make a play.”