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Pelicans' Anthony Davis Returns From Injury, Leads 88-85 Win Over Detroit Pistons

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What shoulder injury?

Anthony Davis, the New Orleans Pelicans’ seemingly unstoppable phenom who puts the power in power forward, returned to the floor of the Smoothie King Center on Wednesday night and put the visiting Detroit Pistons away with 39 points, 13 rebounds and 8 blocks.

Davis had missed the previous five games with an AC joint sprain in his right shoulder (defined as an injury to the connective tissue between the clavicle and shoulder blade), suffered during a collision with Miami’s Hassan Whiteside on Feb. 21.

Before the game Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy joked that Davis should have spent more time recuperating. “I think it’s a major mistake that they’re playing him tonight,” he said. “I don’t think that shoulder is the least bit ready.”

Ready enough. The third-year Davis set the franchise record for blocks tonight (437), a record previously held by David West (435).

After the game, a chastened Van Gundy was much less jocular.

“Anthony Davis not only blocked 8 shots, but they intimidated the heck out of us,” he said.

The Pelicans have now won six of their last seven games, and are 21-10 at home this season.

The still-shorthanded New Orleans team seemed to flag at times as the more athletic Pistons ran them up and down the floor. Detroit outscored the Pelicans 12-3 on the fastbreak in the first quarter, and at one point built up a 12-point lead.

However, some smart new rotations dreamed up by Pelicans head coach Monty Williams seem to be paying off in spades. Davis was paired with forward Alexis Ajinca tonight, who has stepped up in the absence of Davis and the still-injured Ryan Anderson with some big minutes in the past month. The Davis-Ajinca pairing really seems to have opened up the floor for All-Star Davis, unlike Williams’ previous attempts to squeeze more out of the moribund play of center Omer Asik.

Ajinca finished with a double-double of his own, 10 points and 11 rebounds, plus two assists and a block.

“I try to bring everything I have to the team,” Ajinca said in a locker room interview after the game. “Especially because first we had A.D. [Davis] and then Ryan [Anderson] be out, so I had to step up and play big-time minutes.”

Greg Monroe, the Pistons starting center and Harvey native who prepped at Helen Cox High School, had a great game of his own: 13 points, 15 rebounds and 5 assists. However, Davis dominated Monroe in the paint, like this blocked shot with 2:50 to play:

After the game, Pelicans guard Norris Cole said he's amazed by Davis.

"He's not human. He's definitely not a human being," Cole said. "He's not an alien, either. If video game is an option, that's what he would be."

The Pelicans are still a game behind the Oklahoma City Thunder for the eighth and final Western Conference Playoff spot. OKC’s Russell Westbrook lead the Thunder to a 123-118 overtime win over the Philadelphia 76ers tonight, notching his fourth straight triple-double, a feat that hasn’t been accomplished since Michael Jordan did it in the 1988-89 season.

Tonight was the first of a three-game homestand for New Orleans. They will host the Boston Celtics (23-35) on Friday and the Memphis Grizzlies (42-17) on Saturday.

Jason Saul served as WWNO's Director of Digital Services. In 2017 he took a position at BirdNote, in Seattle.

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