NEW ORLEANS (AP) — As Anthony Davis trotted off the court and toward the locker room, fans gathered near the tunnel offered one more round of applause, some of them shouting their congratulations to Davis for receiving his first All-Star game nod.
The 20-year-old Pelicans big man glanced up and smiled widely at the well-wishers — a fitting end to a day he won't soon forget.
Davis responded to his selection earlier in the day as a Western Conference All-Star with 26 points and 10 rebounds, and the New Orleans Pelicans overcame a 10-point fourth-quarter deficit to defeat the Minnesota Timberwolves 98-91 on Friday night.
"It's great, man" Davis said. "We've got to keep pushing. You can't get too happy — but at the same time, you've got to enjoy it."
Davis, who leads the NBA with an average of more than 3 blocks per game, is also making 20-point, 10-rebound outings look routine lately. Meanwhile, the Pelicans have won six of eight games despite being without two key players — forward Ryan Anderson (herniated disk) and point guard Jure Holiday (fractured shin).
"We're fighting," Davis said. "We're grinding each and every night and coming up with big-time wins."
Davis narrowly missed being picked by coaches as a Western Conference All-Star reserve, but when Kobe Bryant was unable to play in the game because of his injured left knee, new NBA commissioner Adam Silver chose Davis as Bryant's replacement.
Then Davis turned in his 17th 20-point, 10-rebound game of the season before a national TV audience, replete with highlight-worthy alley-oop and putback dunks. In the pivotal fourth quarter, he grabbed seven rebounds and had his only blocked shot.
"It's a great way to cap a day off, to be selected (as an All-star) early in the afternoon and then to play like that on national TV in front of the world," Pelicans coach Monty Williams said. "It's pretty cool. It's a lot for a 20 year old who is just scratching the surface on what he can do."
Eric Gordon scored 16 of his 20 points in the second half on an array of jumpers and explosive drives to help fuel New Orleans' comeback.
"I got up more shots in the second half," Gordon said. "I'm always going to shoot a decent field goal percentage. The more shots I get up, the easier it is for me."
Brian Roberts added 16 points, including a 22-foot pullup jumper to make it 96-91 with 22 seconds left, and the Pelicans made 13 of 20 shots in the fourth quarter, outscoring Minnesota 37-20 in the period.
Kevin Love, returning from a one-game absence caused by neck stiffness, had 26 points and 19 rebounds for Minnesota. Corey Brewer added 16 points and Kevin Martin 15.
Love's inside presence helped Minnesota build the largest lead of the game, at 12, in the third quarter.
Love outrebounded the Pelicans as a team 8-5 and had nine points in the period, seven at the free throw line. His free throws in the final minute of the quarter made it 71-59 before Austin Rivers' 11-foot floater pulled the Pelicans back to 10 points heading into the final period.
"It was tough because I just came off of playing a number of physical games and I had been taking a beating. I'm just trying to give this team all that I can," Love said. "But in the end, it wasn't enough."
New Orleans still trailed by nine when J.J. Barea's fast-break layup made it 75-66.
The play had Williams muttering to himself in disgust as he called timeout, and New Orleans responded.
Gordon's 18-foot pull-up jumper and a pair of 3s by Anthony Morrow fueled a 12-2 run. Gordon capped the surge with an explosive dribble drive past Brewer for a two-handed dunk.
New Orleans gradually built its lead to seven. Ricky Rubio, who had 11 points, briefly cut it to 89-85 with a 3, but Morrow's third 3 on as many attempts made it 92-85 and Minnesota did not get closer than three points after that.
"Our decision making offensively wasn't very good," Minnesota coach Rick Adelman said. "I don't think we played well together. Everyone was trying to do it for themselves. ... We have to find a way to trust each other better than that."
NOTES: Love was 14 for 17 from the free throw line. ... F Luke Babbitt made his debut for the Pelicans in the second quarter and hit a 3 soon after checking in and finished with five points in 19:29, including a clutch tip-in of Davis' miss late in the fourth quarter.
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Posted on Sat, February 8, 2014