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Though the waters of the Western Conference are patrolled by Jaws-like predators Golden State and Houston, one NBA superstar believes his squad is one injured standout from making a run at The Finals.
Anthony Davis of the New Orleans Pelicans says if fellow big man DeMarcus Cousins was not sidelined, the Pelicans would have been a huge threat to the likes of the Warriors and the Rockets.
“[Teammate Rajon Rondo] reminds us of it: ‘You guys are the two best bigs. I know what it takes to win championships; we got it.'”
Cousins and Davis were playing at such a level together that they were on pace to become the first set of teammates in NBA history to average 25 points and 10 rebounds per game in the same season.
At that point, New Orleans was 27-21.
Then, Cousins, acquired in a blockbuster trade a year ago from the Sacramento Kings, suffered a torn Achilles’ tendon Jan. 26 against Houston that ended his season.
Since the injury took place, the Pelicans are but 4-5.
At the time of his injury, Cousins was averaging 25.2 points, 12.9 boards and 5.4 dimes per game. ESPN Stats & Information, only four players in the last half-century of the NBA have averaged those numbers through the course of an entire season, and all four earned Most Valuable Player honors.
The 27-year-old was also averaging 1.6 steals and 1.6 blocks in 36.2 minutes per game, while shooting 47.0 percent from the floor, including 35.4 percent from 3, and 74.6 percent from the free-throw line.
The injury, though, put much responsibility on Davis’ shoulders.
“When he goes down, it’s, all right, it goes back to AD before DeMarcus, a lot of minutes, weight of the world on your shoulders,” Davis said. “You know, you gotta carry the team on your back, you gotta almost get 40 every night for us… to give us a chance to win.”
Davis, 24, is averaging 27.4 points, 10.7 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 1.3 steals and 2.1 blocks in 36.4 minutes per game this season, shooting 51.7 from the floor and 82.0 percent from the line.
New Orleans (31-26) currently sits in the eighth and final playoff spot in the West, a half-game ahead of the Los Angeles Clippers (30-26) and 1.5 games in front of 10th-place Utah (30-28), the hottest team in the league and which will carry an 11-game winning streak coming out of the All-Star break.
The Pelicans, though, are also just a game behind fifth-place Oklahoma City (33-26) and a half-game back of sixth-place Denver (32-26) and seventh-place Portland (32-26).
“You kind of have that Russell Westbrook mentality when [Kevin Durant] went out (while they were teammates in Oklahoma City),” Davis said. “Russ just went out there and played, and he shot 40 shots sometimes, you know, whatever it takes to help your team win, and I’m kind of taking that approach.
“I think it’s 3 through 10 is all right there [in the West], so we want to make sure we’re in the mix. We can’t let this thing go away.”