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Anthony Davis dominant as Pelicans hold on for upset

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Apr 14, 2018; Portland, OR, USA; New Orleans Pelicans forward Anthony Davis (23) celebrates after scoring on a play during the second half against the Portland Trail Blazers in game one of the first round of the 2018 NBA Playoffs at Moda Center. The Pelicans won 97-95. Mandatory Credit: Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports
Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

Everyone knows about Playoff Rondo, and he was back in full force during Saturday night’s Game 1 win for the New Orleans Pelicans over the Trail Blazers in Portland. But more importantly, and more impressively, so was Playoff Anthony Davis, and it was a sight to behold.

It almost seems unfair that Davis, who just completed his sixth NBA regular season, was playing in just his fifth career postseason game Saturday night. His only other appearance, during the 2014-15 season, his Pelicans were swept in the first round by the eventual-champion Golden State Warriors during their first title run of this current run of success.

Even in that short cameo three years ago, Davis was brilliant, averaging 31.5 points, 11 rebounds and three blocks per game despite failing to pick up a win.

He made sure not to let that happen this time around, leading the Pelicans to an impressive (albeit dicey at the end) Game 1 road victory for his first ever postseason win and the franchise’s first since 2010-11 season, when they were still the Hornets and still led by Chris Paul.

Davis was simply outstanding on Saturday night, collecting 35 points, 14 rebounds and four blocks to outpace even his impressive postseason averages. He scored from inside and out, and was a major factor in sealing the game late, when it appeared Portland was storming back and on the cusp of pulling off the comeback victory. His two late free throws iced the game and secured the win on a night when he was clearly the best player on the court.

Davis was not, of course, the only reason New Orleans pulled off the upset on Saturday. Nikola Mirotic posted a double-double with 16 points and 11 rebounds, including four 3-pointers. The aforementioned Playoff Rondo added 17 assists and eight boards. Jrue Holliday was second only to Davis (plus-13) with a plus-12 on the night while scoring 21 and playing lockdown defense. The Blazers’ stars, CJ McCollum and Damian Lillard, were quiet for large parts of the night and shot the ball poorly.

But the Pelicans’ effort began and ended with Davis, who set the tone on both ends of the court and built on his MVP-caliber regular season, during which he averaged 28.1 points, 11.1 rebounds and 2.6 blocks, which led the league.

It was hardly a “national coming out” for Davis, considering 1) most NBA fans are well aware of his talent and B) the game didn’t begin until nearly 11pm ET and ended just before 1am ET, but it was a promising, impressive, and at times dominant re-introduction for Davis into the national spotlight on the postseason stage. The Pelicans will need him to continue to play at that level if they hope to win three more games, let alone 15 more, but given what he’s done for six years now and his (albeit small) playoff sampling, there’s no reason to believe he won’t.

And if you’re the Portland Trail Blazers, that’s a very troubling sign.

Alex Smolokoff began with FanRag Sports as a columnist in May 2013 following his graduation from Tulane University, where he worked as a sports columnist and reporter for the Tulane Hullabaloo. He has served as managing baseball editor since January 2015. A native of Randolph, MA, he now resides in Phoenix, AZ.

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