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Davis carries Pelicans past sputtering Heat

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NEW ORLEANS — The New Orleans Pelicans have found their leader. The Miami Heat, two-time defending NBA champions, are searching desperately for their missing championship identity.

Forward Anthony Davis continued his eight-game rampage through the NBA by scoring 30 points and grabbing 11 rebounds — his eighth consecutive game of scoring at least 28 points — to power the Pelicans to a 105-95 victory over the Heat on Saturday night at the Smoothie King Center.

As good as the second-year All-Star has been — in his last eight games, Davis has averaged 32.5 points and 13.5 rebounds and is the first player in franchise history to post three consecutive games of at least 30 points and 10 rebounds — the Heat (47-21) are in a mysterious funk they cannot shake.

Even the King — LeBron James — was at a loss for words after the Heat committed 16 turnovers and allowed the Pelicans to shoot 51.2 percent from the floor, which led directly to the Heat’s seventh loss in 11 games.

This is no way for the Heat to flip their playoff switch.

“Just too many excuses — everything is an excuse,” said James, who led Miami with 25 points and played through a right ankle sprain in the second half. “If you do something wrong, it’s an excuse. If you don’t get a stop, it’s an excuse. We turn the ball over, it’s an excuse. We got to own what we’re doing right now, and what we’re doing right now ain’t good enough.”

Miami coach Erik Spoelstra can echo that sentiment. Before the game, he was hoping that guard Ray Allen’s inspiring play off the bench in March would lead to his team’s resurgence down the stretch.

And then the Heat went out and were buried by a team they had beaten five consecutive times by an average margin of more than 12 points.

“This is new territory for us,” said Spoelstra, whose team won 66 regular-season games last season. “It doesn’t make it right, wrong, good or bad. This is what we are dealing with, and this is how you develop championship character. We all know we have to play much better, much more committed defensively, and that’s really the deal.”

The Heat could not keep New Orleans guards Tyreke Evans (16 points), Brian Roberts (8) and Austin Rivers (9) out of the paint.

And they had no answer for Davis, who missed his first two shots and then went 13 of 20 from the field the rest of the way.

Before the game, Spoelstra heaped praise on Davis, saying, “He’s a fantastic talent. He’s so young, but he can do everything on a basketball court. This kid will be competing for an MVP at some point in his career.”

Afterward, Spoelstra shrugged his shoulders and said, “His age belies his game.”

Davis said he has accepted his new role this year of being the Pelicans’ true leader — and also has looked for his offense much more because it’s needed.

“I’m just trying to be aggressive,” Davis said. “I missed three or four shots in a row at the beginning of the game, and Tyreke and Coach (Monty Williams) and the whole team told me to keep shooting. I don’t care what I score. I just care about winning.”

In snapping their losing streak to the Heat, the Pelicans (29-40) outscored Miami 16-6 in the first 5:37 of the fourth quarter to build a 92-78 lead. They extended the lead to 100-84 on Evans’ 18-foot jumper with 3:54 left.

There was a scary moment for James late in the third quarter. He drove left past Davis in the lane but appeared to step with his right foot on Davis’ foot and crumpled to the ground, holding his right ankle. After a timeout, James limped to the other end of the court but remained in the game and finished out the fourth quarter.

“Put another injury on my list,” said James, who sat out a loss to Boston earlier in the week with back spasms. “It is what it is. I’m not using it as an excuse. I don’t have time to take off. We don’t have time to take off.”

Williams said his young team is growing up.

“To get this win against the defending champs, you feel really good about what you are trying to do as a coaching staff,” he said. “I am proud of our guys to be able to do that on a back-to-back.”

NOTES: G Dwayne Wade (knee) and C Greg Oden sat out for the Heat. G Toney Douglas replaced Wade in the starting lineup. Wade played in 50 of Miami’s 68 games this season. … SG Ray Allen averaged 18.6 points in his last five games. “Ray’s been terrific,” Miami coach Erik Spoelstra said. “He understands what time of year it is. He understands we’re trying to push to a different level, a more consistent level. He’s leading by example. We’ve needed that boost off the bench.” … The Pelicans were without SG Eric Gordon (left knee tendinitis). … In the absence of PG Jrue Holiday, G Tyreke Evans has been playing more lead guard for the Pelicans. That was his position as a rookie at Sacramento.