It is no secret that New Orleans Pelicans big man Anthony Davis is one of the game's best players, and he reminded the city of Atlanta (and the entire NBA) of that fact on Friday night. The former Kentucky Wildcat scored a game-high 34 points on 11 for 19 shooting and grabbed a game-high 11 rebounds for the Pelicans, and he was the central and chief reason why they were able to come into Philips Arena and emerge with a 111-105 victory.
On the surface, this seems like a run-of-the-mill occurrence to some degree, with a rising star putting a team on his back to doom the hometown Hawks, but this performance felt like more than that from an Atlanta perspective. This was a 20-year-old player in his sophomore season in the NBA absolutely eviscerating the Hawks, and with a great portion of the Atlanta fan base starving for "star power", it is difficult to ignore the synergy.
The game turned for good when New Orleans went on a cumulative 22-4 run between the end of the 3rd and beginning of the 4th quarters, and without any sort of coincidence, Davis was right in the middle of things. During that stretch, he ran the gamut of spectacular plays, getting to the free throw line with ease and efficiency, knocking down the mid-range jump shot (which he did with consistency throughout the night), and even using high-flying acrobatics to attack the rim with a vengeance.
When the push ceased, the Pelicans led by 10 points with 9 minutes to play, and even when the Hawks challenged a bit to keep the lead in single digits as the final minutes approached, "the brow" would have no part of it. Davis took the ball to the rim for back-to-back dunks that lengthened the lead to a "safe" distance for the New Orleans, and frankly, he took the air out of the building for the final time.
What does it all mean from the standpoint of the Atlanta Hawks? Simply put, Davis is the characterization of everything that a great deal of Hawks fans desire. He is an ascending, unilateral talent (who also plays defense!) that is headed toward the upper stratosphere of the league, and the Pelicans had to be lucky enough to secure the #1 overall pick in the 2012 NBA Draft in order to snatch him. For years upon years, there has been a faction of Atlanta fans who yearn for a superstar talent in the worst way, and it has to be especially painful to that group when a player with the combination of youth and talent of Davis steps into Atlanta and leads a band of merry men to a victory that they have no business securing.
Even without Kyle Korver in the lineup due to a late back injury, the Atlanta Hawks are a flat-out better basketball team than the New Orleans Pelicans when you evaluate the two active/healthy rosters against one another. Throw in the built-in advantage of home court, and you have exactly one X-factor as to how New Orleans did what they were able to do.
Yes, there were absolutely other "factors" in play during the loss, ranging from inexplicable defensive gaffes to let Luke Babbitt (Luke Babbitt!!!!) knock down multiple threes to uncharacteristic fouling throughout the night, but without Davis at this peak, the Hawks would have been a safe bet to win. It certainly won't comfort Hawks fans to realize the reality of the situation, but Friday night serves as a harrowing reminder of the glass ceiling that any organization encounters without the benefit of a generational talent on their side.