Anthony Davis has already built an impressive resume as an NBA superstar at age 25, but the one glaring absence from his list of accomplishments is postseason success. Davis’ Pelicans were swept in the first round of the 2015 playoffs by the eventual-champion Warriors.
His second trip to the playoffs is off to a much better start.
Davis earned his first career postseason win Saturday as the Pelicans defeated the Trail Blazers 97-95 in Game 1 of their Western Conference first-round series. The five-time All-Star led New Orleans with 35 points (on 14-for-26 shooting), 14 rebounds and four blocks in 40 minutes.
NBA PLAYOFFS: Scores, schedule, live updates
The Trail Blazers struggled to find an answer for Davis defensively, in particular on pick-and-rolls.
The MVP candidate told reporters after the game (per Sports Illustrated) that “it means a lot to get that monkey off your back and get this first win. But now that’s over with. We want to come in Tuesday (in Game 2) to get another one.”
Davis was also quick to highlight the areas in which his team could improve. New Orleans led by as many as 19 points in the second half Saturday, but a furious second-half comeback by the Trail Blazers resulted in a frenetic finish.
“Just to be able to get this first win under our belt builds a lot of confidence for the next game and here on up.”@Jrue_Holiday11 and @AntDavis23 speak to the media following the @PelicansNBA road victory! #NBAPlayoffs pic.twitter.com/DIqGvxghjO
— NBA TV (@NBATV) April 15, 2018
The Pelicans weren’t expected to make the postseason after they lost All-Star center DeMarcus Cousins to a season-ending Achilles injury, but with Davis averaging 30.2 points, 11.9 rebounds, 3.2 blocks 2.2 assists and two steals over 33 games, New Orleans finished with 48 wins in the regular season and secured its first playoff berth in three years.
Now, Davis faces another challenge: leading the sixth-seeded Pelicans past the No. 3 Trail Blazers for the franchise’s first postseason series victory since 2008. By stealing home-court advantage in Game 1, the team is off to a solid start.
Davis’ postgame answers illustrate an awareness that a Game 1 win means next to nothing if it does not result in a series win. His clear focus and high-level play suggest Saturday’s performance is only a preview of things to come.