NEW YORK — Anthony Davis criticized the Pelicans’ “lazy” defense after a frustrating 126-121 loss to the Nets Wednesday at Barclays Center, one in which his 34 points and franchise-record 26 rebounds went for naught.
Davis said the Pelicans are better than their 17-22 record shows and acknowledged the team is frustrated sitting 14th in the Western Conference.
But when another question was posed to Davis — essentially, he was asked if ever thinks about playing for a better team — he didn’t let the question finish.
“I don’t,” Davis said. “Next question.”
Davis is eligible for a supermax extension this summer and has long been the subject of trade rumors. While he didn’t publicly entertain thoughts of playing elsewhere Wednesday, his frustration level was clearly building.
“We can’t sleep in the West,” Davis said. “We know that it’s a loaded conference. Brooklyn had the same record as us (17-21) and they were ninth; we’re 14th. It’s a loaded conference. We've got to be able to put a streak of wins together.
“The frustration is, we’re a better team than our record shows,” he added. “I mean, everyone’s frustrated — players, coaches, front office. We just have to be better. We know what we did last year, we know how good of a team we are.”
Davis’ 26 rebounds were a career high and were the most in the NBA this season.
Davis’ dunk gave put Pelicans up 21-18 in the first quarter, but that was their final lead of the game.
Meanwhile, offense looked easy for the Nets as they went up as many as 24 points in the second quarter before taking a 73-58 lead into the locker room. Brooklyn's 73 points were the second-most the Pelicans allowed in a first half all season.
“We weren’t playing defense,” Davis said. “The whole first half, they did whatever they wanted ... we weren’t physical, weren’t talking. They got a lot of layups, a lot of open 3s. They shot the ball extremely well in the first half due to our lazy defense.
“We just talked in the second half, were a little more physical to the ball, rebounding, talking on the switches, stuff like that,” Davis added. “When we do that — talking, helping each other — we’re a good defensive team. But when we’re not, like we displayed in the first half, we can be one of the worst defensive teams in the league.”
Twenty-five points from Elfrid Payton, 21 from Julius Randle and 20 from Jrue Holiday in addition to Davis’ 34 helped the Pelicans get back in the game, but they never cut the deficit to fewer than five points.
It didn't help that the Nets bench outscored the Pelicans bench 55-5.
“We got behind, and, you know, you’re playing uphill; we know this story,” Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry said. “We’ve seen this story before. (When) you’re playing uphill it’s extremely hard against a team with that talent level that has the ability to score.
"Once again, you’re talking about a perfect storm to get back. We almost got there but we didn’t. You can’t get that kind of separation and think that against a team with that kind of firepower that you’re going to get all the way back.”
The loss means the Pelicans still haven’t won consecutive games since Nov. 16-19, when they won three straight. They’re 0-7 following wins since then.
Wednesday marked the first time this season that the Pelicans lost with Davis and Payton both in the lineup. They were 5-0 when both played, including the first four games of the year and a Nov. 16 meeting with the Knicks that saw Payton play 8 minutes in his return from an ankle injury before breaking his pinkie finger.
Payton returned in Monday's win against Minnesota, but Davis missed the game with a stomach bug that Gentry said he contracted from his young daughter, who was also sick.
Gentry said before the game he planned to keep Payton’s minutes in the low- to mid-20s, but he totaled 33 minutes, 34 seconds while posting a team-high plus/minus at plus-18.
Brooklyn went 16 of 31 from behind the arc, with seven players hitting at least two 3s.