Monday night was supposed to be all about Anthony Davis trying to get his 10,000th career point.
Davis joked that it turned into teammate Julius Randle’s pursuit of a rare triple double.
Davis settled for 29 points, sitting out the last 5:52 after taking an elbow to the face with the Pelicans’ game against San Antonio well in hand. Randle, his replacement down the stretch, finished with 21 points, 14 rebounds and 10 assists in 25 minutes off the bench as the Pelicans exploded to win 140-126 —their sixth victory in the last seven games.
“He (Randle)’s a little selfish,” Davis said, smiling. “He subbed me out with six minutes left. He’s the one that told coach (Alvin Gentry) to let me stay in and then he came and got me because he knew he needed three assists. I understand. I’m just happy we got the win.”
Then Davis got serious.
“He played well,” he said. “Honestly the triple-double speaks volumes about what he can do, and he showed it tonight.”
It was get anything you want night for New Orleans.
Coming off 43- and 40-point outings against the Knicks and the Nuggets on Friday and Saturday, Davis, the Western Conference player of the week, never had scored more than 31 against San Antonio in 23 opportunities. Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, who labeled Davis a “monster” before the game, always has a plan to defend superstars.
But the Spurs did not defend anyone this time. The Pelicans’ point total was their most since scoring a franchise-record 149 on Oct. 19 against Sacramento.
E’Twaun Moore scored 24 on 11 of 16 shooting. Jrue Holiday added 21 points, and the Pelicans shot 57.8 percent with 34 assists and 78 points in the paint.
The Spurs tried to shoot the Pelicans out of the building early. Former Pelicans forward Dante Cunningham hit his first five 3-point attempts, surpassing his career high of four for a game, and Bryn Forbes drained his first four treys as San Antonio started 10 of 14 from long range.
The Pelicans, who trailed by as many as 10, led 68-67 at halftime anyway after the Spurs finally cooled down. Leading the NBA in points in the paint, New Orleans scored 40 points on 20 of 33 shooting in there.
Rookie Frank Jackson put the Pelicans ahead for good, 62-60, on a lay-up and free throw after a Spurs turnover and backed it up immediately with another layup off a turnover. Those counted as points in the paint, too.
With the Spurs connecting on only two of their last 10 3s, the Pelicans extended their lead to 108-97 with a 40-point third quarter, again meeting little resistance in the lane.
From there, it became the AD watch.
He scored points No. 24 and 25 on a midrange face-up.
His next basket was a driving bank shot, and he made a lay-up soon afterward.
He might have reached the 10,000-point landmark if the game had not gotten out of hand, giving Gentry no reason to bring him back in down the stretch.
That allowed Randle to steal the spotlight. He came in averaging a healthy 17.3 points and 8.2 rebounds and was even better against the Spurs.
“It’s just his motor, really, the way he’s been decisive offensively,” Holiday said. “I feel like he’s kind of like a bull down there. A lot to handle to be able to come down, start the break, screen, get it back, make the right plays. He’s been doing everything.”
The Pelicans’ latest outburst came on the same day the team announced point guard Elfrid Payton would miss about six weeks after breaking his left pinkie finger on Friday. While they struggled at first when he missed nine games earlier this year with a sprained right ankle, they had no such issues on Monday.
Jackson, receiving playing time because of Payton’s latest injury, reached double figures for the first time since October with 12 points.