When a large sneaker belonging to Anthony Davis popped off of his right foot late in the second quarter Monday night in Staples Center, Clippers guard Patrick Beverley was standing at the scorer’s table, ready to check in, when he spotted an opportunity.
He scooped up the shoe and walked toward the Clippers bench, but he could hide neither his smile nor the footwear from officials, who whistled him for a technical foul.
Clippers coach Doc Rivers shook his head and laughed.
There is a reason why Davis, the New Orleans Pelicans’ star center, could reshape the league’s power structure with his eventual decision whether to leave the Pelicans or stay. The 7-footer is so destructive that he forces opponents to use unconventional methods to contain him. Beverley’s playful attempt at outright theft didn’t work for long, and neither did much else the Clippers threw at Davis during a 121-117 Pelicans victory that extended the Clippers’ losing streak to three games.
Though Davis missed his first five shots, primarily against the defense of Danilo Gallinari, he responded with 15 points in the second quarter — including two on a layup while wearing only one shoe — and finished with 46 points and 16 rebounds.
“He told me he was playing like … in the second quarter,” said Rivers, who has known Davis since the All-Star was a teenager in their shared hometown of Chicago. “I shouldn’t have talked to him. ...
“You could see at the beginning of the third quarter he began figuring it out and got it going.”
It was the fourth game this season that Davis has scored at least 40 points with at least 15 rebounds.
The rest of the league combined has produced five such performances.
Davis didn’t go away, but neither did the Clippers.
Trailing by 20 points with five minutes to play in the third quarter after Davis tipped in a missed layup by teammate Julius Randle, the Clippers responded with a 16-2 run and entered the fourth quarter trailing by six. The run was capped by a corner three-point basket by reserve guard Tyrone Wallace, his first three of the season.
A four-point play by Gallinari, who later lost part of a tooth while taking a charge from Davis, gave the Clippers a 101-100 lead with seven minutes to play.
Pelicans forward Darius Miller made a three-point shot on the next possession and the Clippers never led again.
With the Pelicans leading 117-113 with 30 seconds left, both teams turned to their closers.
Clippers reserve Lou Williams, who finished with 18 points, scored on a floater in the paint.
The Pelicans put the ball in the hands of Davis, and after the Clippers (24-19) initially hesitated to foul, he was sent to the free-throw line with 13 seconds remaining. He made both free throws to push the lead back to four.
The sequence then repeated. Williams made a layup with six seconds left, and Davis answered with two more free throws to secure a win for the Pelicans (21-23).
The Clippers didn’t shoot poorly so much as they didn’t have enough opportunities to shoot. A 16-7 turnover disparity in New Orleans’ favor helped the Pelicans attempt 105 shots, 19 more than the Clippers. Only the Milwaukee Bucks, on Nov. 21, have attempted more shots in a non-overtime game this season.
“When you spot a team that wants to run and you give them offensive rebounds and you turn the ball over,” Rivers said, “it’s going to be tough to beat them and it was tonight.”
Rivers was frustrated that his team was “flat” at the start and didn’t turn a close game into a victory at the end but was heartened by the third-quarter burst of scoring that prevented a Pelicans rout.
Inconsistency like that could extend the Clippers’ losing streak. They host the Utah Jazz, who’ve won seven of their last 10 games, on Wednesday and the Golden State Warriors on Friday in the season debut of Warriors center DeMarcus Cousins.
The Clippers will keep close watch on Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.
The rookie guard was a nonfactor Monday, failing to score in a season-low 13 minutes, and has scored in double figures only once in his last eight games.
“He’s not playing well,” Rivers said. “He’s just not. That’s fine, he’ll get it going.”