Anthony Davis has done it all for the Pelicans in this very impressive breakout season … well, almost everything, until Friday night. Scoring, rebounds, blocked shots, steals, assists? The only thing missing from his resume in 2014-15 was a buzzer-beater, and that was signed, sealed and delivered in the nick of time to bail out the Pelicans and, more importantly, keep the Thunder at bay in the race for one of the final playoff spots in the West.
Yes, it was only fitting that his first buzzer-beater happened in a big moment and a big game. The Pelicans came to OKC with a one-game lead over the Thunder for ninth place, and this was designated, at least by folks in OKC, as the game in which the Thunder would make their move in the standings. They used much of the last two months digging out of a tough start this season caused mainly by injuries to Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. With the season nearly two-thirds over, time is of the essence, not only for OKC but New Orleans, since both are sitting on the playoff bubble.
Something had to give … and did with no time left on the clock.
Davis isn’t the first player you’d choose to shoot the ball from 3-point range. Actually, what was he doing so far away from the basket, with the score tied? A more reasonable spot for Davis would be near the basket for a tip-in off the inbounds pass. Oh, well. He was checked closely by Durant, but wiggled free and took the pass from Tyreke Evans with 1.2 seconds left. Davis was moving to his left from the top of the key, then leaped in the air, hanging about a split-second longer than Durant. He double-clutched just to make sure and created just enough air space to release a shot beyond the reach of Durant. Not many big man are athletic enough to pull off the mid-air gymnastics that Davis did. The game-winner was Davis’ first made 3-pointer since March of last season and only his third career make in 24 tries. You know what’ll happen this March? Davis turns 22.
The Pelicans nearly choked this game away. Evans missed a pair of free throws on New Orleans’ next to last possession that could’ve iced the game. And then, up three points, Quincy Pondexter ran out to guard Westbrook beyond the three-point stripe, which is really a defensive sin. Pondexter couldn’t stop his momentum and made contact with Westbrook, who released the shot quickly, on the way down. Westbrook had a monster night with a career-high 48 points with 9 rebounds and 11 assists (after scoring 45 points against these same Pelicans his previous game), and calmly hit all three free throws to tie the game with 1.2 ticks left.
Davis finished with 41 points and 10 rebounds in the 116-113 win and, as we already mentioned, the Pelicans are in a fight with OKC and the Suns for the eighth spot, which Phoenix is clinging to at the moment. OKC and the Pelicans met two nights earlier in New Orleans and Westbrook torched the home team in the win. And so: Westbrook scored a combined 93 points in back-to-back games against the Pelicans and OKC only managed a split. The Pelicans are on their best roll of the season, losing only twice since Jan. 19. In their next 12 games, they’ll only see teams with winning records three times. With a soft schedule, it’s the best time for New Orleans to make a strong move. The Pelicans also now hold a 3-1 head-to-head tiebreaker over the Thunder, who have have lost five of their last eight and no doubt hear the clock ticking.
Davis was mobbed by his teammates, with two potential goats, Evans and Pondexter, leading the charge. Seriously, had that shot missed, it would’ve been a long flight out of OKC for two players who only needed to do the right thing to avoid the last second drama.
This shot wasn’t exactly heavy on theatrics, but it did involve Davis, and it was a rare three-pointer from him, and the game carried a fair amount of importance for February. Therefore, the Brow Beater was better than most. We’ll give it four Horrys.