The layup was there for Anthony Davis.
It was late in the Pelicans’ 116-99 win against the Milwaukee Bucks on Saturday night in the Smoothie King Center, and the New Orleans star had an opportunity to pad his point total. Instead, he dished to Ryan Anderson for a bucket.
“When he gets everyone involved like that, too, it makes you want to do the same thing,” Anderson said after finishing with a game-high 23 points. “That’s great leadership on his part.”
And it was a telling play in a night when Davis’ willingness to share kept the Pelicans on a hot streak, winning for the third straight time and the fifth in six games.
Blanketed by long defenders — often 6-foot-8 Khris Middleton or 6-11 Giannis Antetokounmpo — and double-teamed with help from bruiser Greg Monroe, Davis struggled to six points on 2-for-7 shooting in the first half. But the Pelicans tweaked the offense to start the third quarter, moving Davis from the right block to the left, allowing him to look over his left shoulder and pass with his right hand, coach Alvin Gentry said.
The results were stellar and immediate.
Davis hit Omer Asik with two assists early in the third, a sign of things to come for New Orleans, which outscored Milwaukee 64-48 in the second half and had assists on 21 of 24 second-half baskets.
“To start the third quarter, that probably was the catalyst for the whole run, as far as the first four or five possessions,” Bucks interim coach Joe Prunty said. “It was the same play with Anthony Davis getting the ball and whether he finds Asik or he kicked it out to an open shooter, it was all part of it. That was the problem. Their energy and their execution was just better.”
Much of the credit goes to Davis, who finished with 22 points, seven rebounds, five assists and four blocked shots.
“I definitely think we started figuring it out,” said point guard Jrue Holiday, who had 13 points and nine assists. “A.D. was passing out of the trap way better in the second half, making really, really sharp, clean passes, and we converted off of them. That’s where it kind of started.”
It ended with a perimeter blitzkrieg. New Orleans made 11 of 17 second-half 3-pointers and finished with a franchise-record 17 3s.
Anderson made 6 of 11 3-pointers. Toney Douglas was 4 of 6, and Norris Cole hit 3 of 5.
“If you move the basketball like we did, you’re going to have an opportunity to get some open shots, especially with A.D. posting up on the inside,” Gentry said. “I thought our guys were very unselfish. As a mater of fact, a little bit too unselfish on some of the situations. But we’d rather have that than the other thing.”
Tyreke Evans had six assists to go with 10 points. Cole had 11 points and three assists. Alonzo Gee finished with 12 points and three assists, and Douglas had four assists to go with 14 points.
The Pelicans have at least 20 assists in four of their past six games.
“Guys see how we’re winning,” Davis said.
That has made teammates willing to share the ball.
But Davis’ willingness in particular helps, said Anderson, the beneficiary of a Davis assist late at the end of the second quarter on a buzzer-beating dunk, and again on that fourth-quarter layup.
“At that point (in the fourth quarter), I was just trying to get some assists,” Davis said with a laugh. “I had the layup, but I hit him at the end of the (second) quarter with the no-look, and so I was just feeling it the rest of the game.”