PORTLAND, Ore. — Even in a loss, it was all about Anthony Davis.
The Brow was everywhere on Monday night, carving up the Portland Trail Blazers’ defense in the first three quarters. In the fourth quarter, the Pelicans went away from him, and the Blazers made a run, pulling out a 102-93 win.
It took a Herculean effort by the Blazers’ defense in the second half, led by Robin Lopez, to stop Davis’ dominant night. He finished with 31 points on 14-of-20 shooting, 11 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 steals and 3 blocks. He anchored the Pelicans’ defense, even with starting center Omer Asik injured. He took a corner three at the end that rimmed out, but he was having the kind of night where everyone assumed it would go in.
Since Davis was selected with the No. 1 pick in the 2012 draft, he’s had expectations foisted upon him ranging from multiple-time All-Star (he’s already on his way there) to multiple-time MVP. If the Pelicans make the playoffs, he has a solid chance of winning his first MVP trophy this season.
“He’s always been very strong mentally, he’s always shown the will to get better,” said Lopez, who played with Davis in New Orleans his rookie year. “Even as a rookie, he was a really good player. It’s nice to see that he has the guys around him now.”
Now, Lopez is on the other side, tasked with game-planning for a destructive force at both ends of the floor. He’s become somebody that opposing teams have to plan for, and they still usually aren’t able to stop him.
“He’s a difficult guy to double-team,” said Blazers coach Terry Stotts. “He doesn’t play off the dribble much. It’s usually one or two dribbles and he’s pretty quick. You’ve just got to make him work, just like all great players. You go down the list, you’ve just got to make him work for his points. He’s going to have nights like tonight where he shoots the ball really well. In this league, one guy can beat you in certain situations, but he’s not going to beat you most nights.”
The Blazers were finally able to effectively cover Davis in the fourth quarter, where he went 2-for-5 while guards Tyreke Evans and Jrue Holiday combined to go 0-for-14 in the final period.
Davis didn’t seem fazed by his lack of touches in the fourth.
“We have other scorers,” he said. “Whoever has the ball needs to score. We had good looks, we just missed opportunities.”
None of those other scorers came through on Monday night, and a dominant night from Davis ended in a loss. But he’s going to have many more nights like this. He’s already become a player that you have to make a point of watching on TV, or better yet, seeing in person. The hype is real. The future has arrived.