NEW ORLEANS — When Anthony Davis failed to be voted into the NBA All-Star Game on Thursday by the Western Conference coaches, no one could have blamed the second-year New Orleans Pelicans forward if he fell into a funk.
Instead, Davis took out whatever frustration he might have been feeling on his hometown team, the Chicago Bulls.
Davis scored 24 points, grabbed eight rebounds and blocked six shots — only the third player in NBA history to record at least 22 points and four blocks in three consecutive games — to power the Pelicans to a bruising 88-79 victory over the Bulls on Saturday night.
It was the fifth victory in seven games for the injury-depleted Pelicans (20-26).
When Davis, who made 10 of 14 shots from the floor, nailed an 18-foot jumper to give New Orleans an 84-69 lead with 4:47 left, he pumped his right arm into the air as the Bulls called timeout. It was a rare display of exuberance compared to Davis’ characteristically flat-line demeanor.
“I’m not trying to prove anything,” Davis said. “Everybody knows what I can do and what I’m capable of. I’m just trying to go out there and do what we did tonight — get a win against a great Bulls team that plays hard and is a competitive defensive team.”
But Pelicans coach Monty Williams saw a fire in Davis against the Bulls that convinced him the All-Star snub mattered.
“No matter how you slice it, when you’ve played as well as he’s played — he can say what he wants — but we all know he deserves it,” Williams said of Davis, who is the only NBA player averaging 20 points and 10 rebounds per game. “I just told him, ‘You gotta keep doing what you’re doing and prove everybody wrong. It’s over and done with — but he’s making a statement.”
Davis scored 15 of his game-high 24 points in the second half and the Pelicans held the Bulls to 39 percent shooting from the field. The Pelicans blocked 14 shots, and the 79 points was a season low for Chicago by five points.
The Bulls (23-23) got to the line for 33 free throws — 23 more attempts than New Orleans — but made only 22. Despite 23 points by guard D.J. Augustin, Chicago missed 13 of 16 3-point attempts.
“Their rim protection was good, but the 11 missed free throws hurt us,” Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. “They beat us to loose balls and that hurt us more. We’ve got to make some 3s to pull them away from the basket. We played a low-energy game.”
Even more amazing is that Davis did all his damage with a dislocated left index finger — on his non-shooting hand. His six blocks gave him the franchise record of at least four blocks in six consecutive games.
Augustin, a New Orleans native, scored nine of the Bulls’ 12 points in a first-quarter run that erased a 13-5 deficit and cut the Pelicans’ lead to 23-21 at the end of the quarter. But New Orleans scored 12 consecutive points in a 2:43 span of the second quarter — with five each coming from reserve guards Anthony Morrow and Austin Rivers — to extend their lead to 35-23.
Williams said Davis, at 20, has taken to his leadership role better than he ever could have hoped.
“It’s his team, and we made that known in the summertime,” Williams said. “We’re going to go as far he can carry us. That’s a lot for a 20-year-old. But at the same time, we’re preparing him for the day he wakes up and he just wants it. I think he kind of wants it now, but it’s his team, and he know he needs to lead us.
“He leads from a defensive standpoint. When he gets six blocks, seven blocks, eight blocks, that sends a message to the rest of his teammates that the way we’re going to win is on defense.”
NOTES: The Bulls entered the game having won seven of their previous eight road games. … Chicago posted the best record in the East in January (11-4). … Chicago coach Tom Thibodeau, who coached Pelicans F Anthony Davis last summer for USA Basketball, said he has been amazed at the second-year player’s progress. “He’s developing into a great player,” Thibodeau said. “There’s not too many 20/10 (points/rebounds) players in the league. You can tell he’s getting a lot more comfortable shooting the ball. He has a big impact on the game defensively, he can cover for mistakes and his athleticism is through the roof.” … New Orleans G Tyreke Evans was seeking to rebound from 5-of-20 shooting and 14 total points in the previous two games. “He just had a couple of bad game,” Pelicans coach Monty Williams said. “It happens. Teams are keying on him.” … C Jason Williams is expected to miss “months” after knee surgery earlier this week, Williams said.
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