The AD and Boogie show was one of the best things going in the NBA, which made Boogie snapping his achilles tendon just before the All-Star break a downright depressing development. What’s definitely not depressing are the things Anthony Davis has been doing to the chumps who have had the misfortune of lining up against him this month.
Davis’s Pelicans took on the tanking and crappy Suns last night, and Davis did that thing superstars on middling teams tend to do against shitty teams: he beat the hell out of them, in alarmingly vicious fashion. The Pelicans won the game 125-116, and Davis put up a stat line that has no business existing in a game that didn’t go into multiple overtimes: 53 points, 18 rebounds, and five blocks.
If you want to watch Davis’s highlights you can do so here, but there’s honestly not much to see. That’s a weird thing to say about a 53-point game, but it’s evidence of just how thoroughly Davis overpowered the Suns. His performance unfolded as a seemingly endless series of tip-ins, dunks, and muscled-in layups that Phoenix was helpless to stop. He shot 26 free throws in the game because fouling him was the only way any Suns defender could prevent him from scoring at the rim. Davis simply spent 38 minutes being stronger, taller, and better than everyone else on the court, and that was enough to earn him a historic stat line:
Things have been going this way for a while now. Davis is averaging 35 points and 12 rebounds per game in February. He’s scored at least 42 points in five of the 10 games he’s played this month, and he’s got two 38-point games to go along with them. The Pelicans have won their last six games, and currently have the fifth seed in the Western conference. Davis has the look of a star who not only is refusing to allow his team to miss the playoffs, but has serious ambitions for the MVP award.
There’s no reason to think he can’t achieve both of those goals. Ever since Cousins went down, the Pelicans have become a far more conventional team. This is probably bad news for their eventual postseason matchups—the unorthodox nature of an attack led by Cousins and Davis is a much better recipe for an upset—but it has been great for Davis’s stats. No longer required to find creative ways to share the floor with an equally large and talented big man, Davis has gotten right back to acting as the Pels’ center of gravity. He’s a constant presence around the basket, and is dominating teams with his rebounding and finishing ability. Every game from here on out is going to see him scoring a handful of tip-ins, finishing lobs with ease, blocking shots without mercy, and shooting double-digit free throws. There’s not really anything a team can do to stop those things from happening.
For most teams, the loss of a player like DeMarcus Cousins would have effectively brought an end to the season. This is not the case for the Pelicans, and that’s because Davis, suddenly unmoored from the partnership that made him a part of the NBA’s most tantalizing offense, has proven himself capable of playing dominant, can’t-miss basketball in any way that is required of him. That’s all the evidence you need that he’s one of the five best players in the league.