Five Takeaways from NBA Sunday: Anthony Davis sets personal record

Associated Press
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If you missed the full slate of NBA Games Sunday because you and other mascots were dancing to set a record, I completely understand. And we’ve got you covered. Here’s what you need to know from a Sunday around the Association, starting with Dan Feldman’s dispatch from outside Detroit:

1) Anthony Davis goes off for 59 on Pistons.

AUBURN HILLS, Michigan – Anthony Davis said he knew the referees would never call a foul on Andre Drummond, who made plenty of contact as Davis held the ball with the clock expiring in the Pelicans’ 111-106 win over the Pistons on Sunday.

Maybe Drummond was trying for a final steal despite his team trailing by multiple possessions. Maybe he was trying to help Davis get to the foul line and bump his scoring total just one more point.

If it were the latter, no matter.

Davis was perfectly pleased with his 59 points, the most in an NBA game this season or last. The New Orleans forward, whose previous career high was 43, said 50 had long been his goal.

“If people get 40, that’s tough to get. Thirty is kind of tough in the NBA. But 50,” Davis said, his eyes widening, “it’s 50. Everybody can’t get 50.”

Especially not with the 20 rebounds Davis grabbed Sunday.

Just two other players had a 50-20 game since at least 1983-84, as far back as Basketball-Reference.com records date: Chris Webber (51-26 in 2001) and Shaquille O’Neal (61-23 in 2000). Add Davis’ four assists, and his point-rebound-assist marks are unprecedented in the Basketball-Reference database.

Davis made 14-of-19 shots in the paint, 8-of-13 mid-range shots, 2-of-2 3-pointers and 9-of-10 free throws

At one point, he hit a shot fall-away shot over Drummond.

“I was like, ‘Damn,'” Davis said. “I was like, ‘It might be one of those nights.'”

“After a while, you feel like any shot you put up is going to go in.”

—Dan Feldman

2) Cleveland’s other “big three” lead Cavaliers to statement win over Thunder. Kyrie Irving was out with the stomach flu (he didn’t play in the second half Sunday), but it didn’t matter because the Cavaliers had their other “big three” — their front line of LeBron James, Kevin Love, and Tristan Thompson. That trio combined for 68 points, 32 rebounds, 16 assists, and they were a +20 when on the court together against the Thunder. That fits with their season numbers, where the trio is +20.4 points per 100 possessions (in more than 700 minutes together), according to NBA.com.

This game was close early, but the Cavaliers bench started to stretch the lead out, and the Cavaliers were up nine at the half. Then the Cavs cranked up the defense — OKC scored just 39 points in the second half — and starting with an 11-0 run four minutes into the second half pulled away or a comfortable win. The Cavs led by as many as 26 in the second half. For the Cavaliers it’s a sign of them taking another step, showing that they can be a threat to San Antonio and, more importantly, Golden State. On the other side, the Thunder have struggled against the NBA’s best teams this season and that’s a concerning trend. Especially with a game against the Warriors looming on Saturday.

3) Kobe Bryant played his last game in Chicago. There was added emotion on the Kobe farewell tour Sunday because Chicago is the home of Michael Jordan — the guy Kobe has so often been compared to. It was also emotional because Pau Gasol was there to do the pre-game introduction for his friend, and then embrace him afterward.

As for the game itself, the Bulls defense was again miserable, but not as miserable as the Lakers’ — the Bulls knocked down their threes, got 24 out of Derrick Rose, and scored the 126-115 win. The game was entertaining in an “only slightly more defense than the All-Star Game” way, and Kobe hit some tough shots that the fans ate up, but this wasn’t pretty basketball. Still, the Bulls will take it.

4) Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum combine for 61 and spark Trail Blazers win. Every team that had beaten Golden State this season turned around and lost their next game — Portland’s backcourt was determined to break that streak. Utah had pushed its way back into the playoff discussion in the West and led by double digits most of the second quarter and into the start of the third. That’s when McCollum (31 points) and Lillard (30) led the comeback by hitting their threes (especially from the left side of the court) and finishing when they got to the rim, despite the skilled shot blockers the Jazz have clogging the paint. McCollum hit a couple of late free throws to ice the 115-111 win for Portland. This gave Portland the tie breaker over Utah, which matters as these teams are the current seven (Portland) and nine (Utah) seeds in the West and are separated by just 1.5 games.

5) Anderson Varejao, David Lee find new homes in the Western Conference. Veteran big men Anderson Varejao and David Lee, both recently bought out and waived (Varejao was traded, to boot) cleared waivers on Sunday afternoon and both quickly signed with their new teams.

Varejao, the long-time Cavalier, signed with the Golden State Warriors, something he confirmed. This is a spot where he can get a little run in the short term — Andrew Bogut and Festus Ezili are out injured — and he can chase a ring. It also could set up an awkward reunion if/when the Cavs and Warriors meet in the Finals. (Also, I’ve seen the tweet getting forwarded around of a few frustrated Cavs fans calling Varejao a traitor for signing with Golden State. Give me a break. Loyalty is a two-way street. Varejao showed nothing but loyalty to the Cavaliers for 11.5 seasons, and he was rewarded with being shipped out to Portland to make way for Channing Frye — the team showed no loyalty to him. It’s a cold business. Varejao looked out for himself and owes nothing to Cleveland now.)

Mavericks’ coach Rick Carlisle confirmed that David Lee has signed with Dallas. Lee was looking for a place he could get some run after being glued to the bench in Golden State last season (at least until he was needed in the Finals) then in Boston this season. In Dallas Lee should get some run with the second unit, playing behind Zaza Pachulia (and in the mix with Salah Mejri, who has been the backup center of late).