NEW ORLEANS — In his three NBA seasons, New Orleans Pelicans forward Anthony Davis has produced some breathtaking, made-for-Sportscenter moments — swooping dunks, nasty blocked shots and clutch free throws.
But what the All-Star forward showcased Sunday night in the Pelicans’ 109-106 comeback victory over the Dallas Mavericks was a soaring wingspan that probably belongs on another NBA planet.
Davis scored a team-high 28 points and made four critical foul shots in the final 12.3 seconds, but it was his in-the-clouds interception of a desperation inbounds pass from Rajon Rondo with 9.4 seconds remaining that sealed the victory and left the sellout crowd at the Smoothie King Center slack-jawed.
Davis had just given the Pelicans a 107-106 lead with 12.3 seconds left after being fouled by Tyson Chandler as guard Tyreke Evans tried to inbounds the ball to him.
Then, with Dallas setting up just inside halfcourt with no timeouts left, Rondo tried desperately to get the ball in the hands of shooting guard Monta Ellis, who already had scored a game-high 36 points on 16 of 27 shooting.
But Ellis was double-teamed, forcing Rondo to look elsewhere. Rondo tried to float a high pass toward the center of the court to forward Dirk Nowitzki, but Davis swooped in for the interception, fell to the floor and was fouled again, setting up two more foul shots at 9.4 seconds.
“Coach said it perfect in the huddle — we were going to go with our normal package,” Davis said. “He made a great call. He said whoever’s on the ball take Monta out and don’t let him get it. Dirk was the only one left to score the ball, so I just tried to deny him the ball and make him force a hang-time pass knowing that I could probably get a piece of it.”
Davis did more than get a piece of it. He gobbled it up.
Dallas coach Rick Carlisle was blaming himself for some possible confusion on the play. At first, forward Chandler Parsons was going to make the inbounds pass, but Carlisle switched up by having Rondo make the pass.
“Rondo’s been in that situation more than Parsons has, and they had already deflected one,” Carlisle said.
But Carlisle indicated he had forgotten to remind the team in the timeout that they could inbound the ball toward the backcourt. Ellis was sandwiched in the frontcourt near the center-court line, and Rondo had nowhere else to throw the ball.
“As a player, you have to know as well that you can get (a pass in the) backcourt, and I forgot about it,” Ellis said. “It’s no one to blame. We played hard. They just got the ball.”
“They did a good job taking Monta away,” Nowitzki said. “It’s an easy play when you have a timeout, but we didn’t have one left so kinda had to throw it up and it’s hard to lob it up over one the longest guys in the league.”
The Pelicans (23-21) earned their season-high third consecutive win and their first victory in 10 games against Dallas (30-15). Guard Tyreke Evans had 24 points and 12 assists for New Orleans, and forward Ryan Anderson added 18, all in the first half.
In addition to Ellis’ 36, Nowitzki had 24 points for Dallas.
New Orleans coach Monty Williams said he was most pleased with the way the Pelicans, leading most of the game, refused to crumble after surrendering the lead late due to Ellis’ shooting heroics.
“When they did make a run and took the lead, our guys had a chance to fold,” Williams said. “When (Davis) did get (the ball), he came through. It takes a lot to knock down the free throws the way he did and make the defensive play he did at the end … and have the wherewithal to call timeout. Most 21-year-olds don’t play like that.”
NOTES: Dallas had a scare when C Tyson Chandler bumped knees with F Anthony Davis midway through the third quarter. After limping badly to the locker room, Chandler returned in the fourth. “Once I could put some pressure on it, I wanted to go back and play,” Chandler said. … Dallas coach Rick Carlisle said his priority before the All-Star break will be to improve his team’s rebounding. Heading into Sunday’s action, the Mavericks were being out-rebounded by an average of 3.5 a game. “It’s an issue, a challenge, that we have to take on collectively,” Carlisle said. “There’s no one guy who’s going to jump up and get five more per game. This week we’re playing five (games) in seven days. Everybody can get three or four more rebounds this week.” … Pelicans coach Monty Williams said Dallas PG Rajon Rondo has the ball in his hands more than Jameer Nelson did and always “tries to set other guys up. In the West … he’ll be open a lot more. Teams will leave him more. He loves to get out in transition and is always looking for the open guy.” … Carlisle has taken notice of Davis’ expanded shooting range. “He hasn’t made a 3, but he’s due to make a 3,” Carlisle said.
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