Van Gundy takes blame for 59: 'Terrible coaching'
Auburn Hills — The good news for the Pistons is that they won’t have to face New Orleans Pelicans forward Anthony Davis again this season.
The bad news is that Davis had a performance that he — and the rest of the NBA — will get to savor until their next meeting.
Davis, the No. 1 pick in the 2012 draft, netted a career-best and franchise-record 59 points on Sunday afternoon at The Palace, propelling the Pelicans to a 111-106 victory.
The 59 points also are a Palace record and surpassed Davis’ previous career high by 16. He also added 20 rebounds, one off his career best.
Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy wasn’t in a mood to marvel at Davis’ feat, though, taking the blame for not coming up with a better defensive scheme.
“You’ve got to come up with something — the guy can’t score 59,” Van Gundy said. “That’s on me. That’s terrible coaching.”
The way Davis was shooting, there might not have been much more that Van Gundy, nor the Pistons, could have done.
He was 24-of-34 from the field, including a pair of 3-pointers, and had eight midrange baskets, the most in the league this season. He joined Shaquille O’Neal (2000) and Chris Webber (2001) as the only players with 50-plus points and 20-plus rebounds in a game since 1963.
“After a while, you feel like any shot you put up is going to go in,” said Davis, who had 32 points in the first meeting against the Pistons, on Jan. 21. “I felt very comfortable. I’ve been working on everything that I’ve been doing that I displayed tonight. I might not use it every time, but I work on it.”
Davis’ eruption overshadowed good performances by Reggie Jackson, who had 34 points, and Andre Drummond, who added 21 points, 14 rebounds and three blocks.
The Pistons (27-29) have lost five straight and already were short-handed without Donatas Motiejunas and Marcus Thornton, who were acquired in Thursday’s trade with the Houston Rockets, but haven’t been cleared to play because Motiejunas has not passed his physical.
Anthony Tolliver, who started out guarding Davis, left in the first quarter with a knee injury, sustained after colliding with Drummond going for a rebound. Tolliver hobbled off the court to the locker room to be examined and did not return.
Tobias Harris and Marcus Morris had primary defensive responsibility on Davis, but after he started getting things going, with 26 points in the first half, including 18 in the second quarter, it was hard to put a stop to it.
Davis scored efficiently, showing the full repertoire — including several contested jumpers, inside moves and 3-pointers.
“You can sit here and say be more physical with him, but really tonight, he was just in a zone,” said Harris who had 16 points and five rebounds in his Palace debut. “It’s a team thing — all five guys. He didn’t score 59 points on one guy; he scored pretty much on everybody out there. We have to take it as a team.”
The Pelicans (22-33) led for most of the first half, and Davis chipped in 18 of the last 25 points in the period. His putback at the buzzer made it 55-55 at halftime.
Davis followed with the first six Pelicans points of the third quarter, part of his 14 in the period. He said he didn’t feel like he was in the zone until he made a contested baseline jumper over Drummond.
“He had great defense and I was falling away and it went in and I was like, ‘Damn, it might be one of those nights,’ ” Davis said.
“(In the zone) you have a lot of fun; you’re really locked in and the rim is really big. Each shot you put up is going to go in. When you’re locked in, you want the ball at all times and any time you touch it, it’s going to go up — that’s how I felt tonight.”
The Pistons opened the fourth quarter with back-to-back 3-pointers from Steve Blake and Harris for an 81-80 lead at the 10:23 mark. But Davis hit a jumper to start a 6-0 run for the Pelicans, following by a pair of baskets by Jrue Holiday (16 points).
Davis scored 11 straight points down the stretch for the Pelicans, with two jumpers, a dunk, a 3-pointer and another fadeaway jumper during a three-minute span. The Pistons managed only a 3-pointer by Jackson and a three-point play by Drummond during the flurry.
That helped push the Pelicans’ lead to 101-93, but Jackson added a triple to keep it close. Holiday added two free throws and Drummond followed with a dunk. But Davis added two more free throws, to push his total to 59.
From there, the Pistons never got closer than four points.