Look at the current NBA standings today. Raise your hands if you thought the Toronto Raptors would have the best record in the East. Do the same if you thought the Houston Rockets would have the best record at this point in the season. While you’re at it, scan through the Western Conference standings and tell us if you thought that, of all teams, the New Orleans Pelicans would be sitting fourth in the West, riding a franchise record 10 straight wins—it could be 11 by the time this is published—that’s being done after DeMarcus Cousins’ season-ending Achilles injury. The NBA has been especially crazy this year, and no team has epitomized all this absurdity more than the Pelicans.
The season was supposed to be done when Cousins went down. Any hope the team had of making the playoffs were snuffed out when Boogie tried to grab a loose ball off of his own missed free throw in a game against the Rockets back in January. Anthony Davis had the ability to carry the team on his back, but to go through a murderer’s row of teams in the West without his tag-team partner by his side? Impossible, right? Right?
Turns out, we’re the suckers for dismissing the Pels after Boogie’s injury. The team hit a rough patch in the immediate aftermath, losing four of its next five games. But since then, New Orleans has rolled off 10 straight wins, tying a franchise record in the process. They’ve done it through a combination of resilience, luck, and a version of the Brow that we’ve never seen before.
We all know that Davis is a top-five talent in the NBA. He’s dominant on both ends of the floor, a big man with an offensive skill set that covers all areas of the floor. He’s just as dominant on defense where he can guard all five positions without generating a mismatch. In fact, in the month of February, Davis was the mismatch. For the month, the Brow became an eater of worlds, averaging 35 points, 13 rebounds, 2.5 steals, and 2.2 blocks and leading the Pelicans to an 8-3 record. He and Moses Malone are the only two players to average that many points and rebounds in a calendar month. He posted five 40-point, 10-rebound games in the month, the most in a calendar month in the last 35 years. As far as historical months go, Davis turned in one of the best ones the league has seen ever.
To their credit, other Pelicans have stepped up too. Jrue Holiday is averaging 24 points and eight assists during the course of the streak. Rajon Rondo has been the kind of stabilizing force the team hasn’t had in years. Nikola Mirotic is coming into his own after coming in on a trade from the Chicago Bulls. Role guys like E’Twaun Moore, Darius Miller, and Ian Clark are all playing above their heads. Even Emeka Okafor, who last played in the NBA five years ago, has been a rock on defense.
None of what the Pelicans have accomplished in the last month would’ve been possible without Davis turning into the NBA version of Galactus. Unfortunately for Pels fans, it’s this otherworldly play from the Brow that’s also made the team’s incredible run so fragile and precarious. For all of his talents, Davis’ career is also littered with injuries piling one on top of another. We saw it in the Los Angeles Clippers game when he suffered a rib contusion. The next night, he sprained his ankle, which will likely force him to miss time. For a physical freak who doesn’t possess any weaknesses on the basketball court, it’s ironic that his body is his own kryptonite.
If Davis misses time, are the Pelicans good enough to keep their heads above water in the last 18 games of the season? It’s the same question we asked when Boogie Cousins went down for the season. The only difference is that when he tore his Achilles, the Pelicans still had one cheat code up its sleeve. Now that both are sidelined—pray to the Gods that AD can come back soon!—it’s probably too much to ask a team to keep its momentum going without its twin towers in the lineup.
Then again, stranger things have happened in the league this season. With everything that’s gone on, would it be too much to ask for Chieck Diallo to suddenly turn into a modern-day Hakeem Olajuwon? Okay, that’s stretching the bounds of reality a little too far.
Come back soon, AD! We need Galactus in the NBA playoffs!