NEW ORLEANS (AP) — The moment Anthony Davis initiated a spin move to create separation in the paint between him and Mavericks center Nerlens Noel, Pelicans guard Rajon Rondo sent a lob from the left wing to the far side of the rim.
Davis located the ball as he sprang upward, corralled it with one hand high above his head and slammed it through as fans rose to their feet and howled, clearly enthralled by the latest spectacle to which they’d been treated by their 6-foot-10, five-time All-Star.
“I don’t know how I did that,” Davis said. “It just happens. Me and Rondo got a good chemistry with that. We’ve got some code words that we use when we want to try to look for it and I told him just throw it.”
Davis and Rondo were certainly speaking the same language against Dallas.
Davis scored 37 points on 15-of-21 shooting, Rondo had 19 points and 14 assists, and the New Orleans Pelicans overcame the absence of Jrue Holiday to beat the Mavericks 115-105 on Tuesday night.
Rondo “just makes the game a lot easier for me, honestly, so I don’t really have to force shots,” said Davis, whose baskets included five layups and four dunks. “I go out there and I just play.”
Davis created his own shots, too. He hit a couple 3s, fadeaways and floaters in the type of dynamic, prolific performance the Pelicans have come to expect.
“You look up he has 15 (points), a few minutes go by, he has 20, 24, by the end of the night he’s pushing 40,” Pelicans forward Solomon Hill said.
Ian Clark added 19 points for the Pelicans, who are in a tight, seven-team race for one of the final five Western Conference playoff spots. Cheick Diallo had his second straight game scoring in double figures to go with 14 rebounds for New Orleans, which pulled a game behind Oklahoma City for the fourth seed in the West after the Thunder’s loss to Boston.
Dirk Nowitzki and Harrison Barnes each scored 19 for the Mavericks, who’ve lost three straight. Yogi Ferrell added 18 points for Dallas, which kept the game competitive most of the way despite being out of playoff contention and without guard Dennis Smith Jr.
“We played hard, you know? We had some breakdowns defensively, but they are a very good offensive team,” Mavs coach rick Carlisle said. “This is one of the better teams in the West in recent weeks and we were right there with them on the road.”
The Mavs did not trail by more than eight points until Rondo’s step-back jumper made it 112-103 with 1:45 left. Dallas even led late in the third quarter when Ferrell’s 18-footer made it 80-77, but Davis tied it with a 3 at the horn.
Dallas was still as close 106-103 after J.J. Barea’s floater with 2:52 left, but the Pelicans scored the next six points, highlighted Rondo’s lob to Davis for another alley-oop dunk.
The Mavericks led by as many as 13 points in the second quarter after a 14-2 run. New Orleans rallied to take the lead before halftime, however, thanks to a 15-2 run that began with Larry Drew’s 3 and featured 10 points by Davis and the Pelicans led 54-52 at halftime after Diallo’s jumper.
Mavericks: Smith was sitting out his 10th game this season and first since spraining his left ankle during a loss at Brooklyn on Saturday night. His absence meant Dallas was missing 15 points per game for the season, and 20 points per game in three meetings with New Orleans. … Barea finished with 10 points.
Pelicans: Shot 52.7 percent (48 of 91) as a team. … Holiday was sitting out his first game this season. Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry said he was hoping for a quick recovery for Holiday, who averages 19 points and whose illness came as the Pelicans began a string of three games in five nights. … Hill started but played only 11 minutes in his second game this season after rehabilitating from a torn hamstring. He said he feels good and hopes to play more in the coming nights.
The Pelicans are looking increasingly to Clark as a scoring option recently. Acquired last offseason in free agency, he had a slow start in New Orleans, but has averaged 14.3 points in a reserve role during his past six games.
“Really confident. These guys in this locker room, they give me the most confidence. They’ve been telling me to play my game and be aggressive. That’s what I’m trying to do,” Clark said. “It was just me being more comfortable.”
Mavericks: Host Utah on Thursday night.
Pelicans: Host Indiana on Wednesday night.