Pelicans, possibly ‘building in the right direction,’ go for another win vs. Charlotte Hornets

New Orleans Pelicans forward Anthony Davis screams after a slam dunk in the second half of Monday’s game against the Chicago Bulls in New Orleans. The Pelicans won in double overtime 132-128.

Anthony Davis shouted at his opponents, waved his arms in the air and continuously jumped up and down as the final minutes ticked down in a raucous Smoothie King Center.

It was a fairly common scene.

Except this time, he was doing it from the bench.

Davis fouled out midway through the first overtime of Monday’s 132-128 double-OT thriller over the Chicago Bulls, but no one would’ve known it based on his body language when the final buzzer sounded.

After nearly 20 minutes of barking out signals and jumping for joy from the Pelicans’ bench, the 6-foot-10 superstar skipped across the floor, jumping into teammate DeMarcus Cousins’ arms when he polished off the victory.

“I had to stay locked in,” Davis said of his sideline enthusiasm. “I couldn’t help my team on the floor. When I’m not playing, I try to stay engaged and talking. I’ll talk to the other team. Whatever I have to do to get a win. I felt like that was the only way I was able to get involved with the game.”

Make no mistake, Davis played a fundamental on-court role in pulling the dormant Pelicans out of their fourth-quarter funk, spurring a 21-2 run with thunderous dunks, allowing New Orleans to even reach overtime in the first place.

But his display from the sideline proved his interest goes beyond the stat sheet or the highlight reel and displayed the type of team competitiveness several players have pointed to throughout the season.

“It’s about the win, man,” Cousins said Monday. “I’ve said it all year. We are genuinely happy for one another’s success and I think that’s what it’s all about. That type of energy is going to carry us through the remainder of the season.

"Any given night it can be somebody’s night. It so happened to be mine. The next game it may be somebody else’s and we are going to rally around that guy the same way. I think that’s what it’s about.”

And now that the Pelicans have won five of six games, their best stretch of the season, it’s starting to reveal itself on the scoreboard. They’ll attempt to keep the hot streak alive at 6 p.m. Wednesday in Charlotte against the Hornets.

But the question looming from coach Alvin Gentry is why the Pelicans’ enthusiasm and cohesion don’t always manifest into energy on the floor. And it’s become problematic — particularly at the onset of the second half.

Monday’s remarkable comeback was only necessary because the Pelicans immediately squandered their halftime lead and allowed the Bulls to pounce at the start of the fourth quarter as well.

“I wish we would start the third quarter the way we played the last eight minutes,” Gentry said Monday night. “We just have to find a way to get past that.”

It’s nothing new. In fact, the Pelicans’ traditional starting lineup has been outscored by 15.1 points per 100 possessions in their last 150 third-quarter minutes together. It’s far and away the team’s worst stretch — and despite an insistence on fixing it, the problem persists.

But the silver lining is those ragged thirds have tested New Orleans’ mettle in the fourth, leading to a series of intensely close games. Three of the Pelicans’ past four wins have come in overtime, and their lone loss in the past two weeks came on a miss at the buzzer.

So the path to improvement is clear, and the chemistry is in place to harness it. Now, the only question remaining is how far can they take it?

“We are building in the right direction,” Cousins said. “We are still making a lot of mistakes and have to do a better job of not fouling in bad situations. We are still learning and still making mistakes. But you can learn from wins and losses and we will take the wins and try to learn from them.”

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