By Peter Finney Jr., The Sports Xchange
NEW ORLEANS — The New Orleans Pelicans went small, and Anthony Davis came up big.
Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry decided to start Davis at center against the Dallas Mavericks for just the fourth time this season, and Davis responded with 28 points and 16 rebounds — his fourth consecutive game of at least 28 points and 15 rebounds — to lead New Orleans to a 111-104 victory Monday night at the Smoothie King Center.
“It’s a good lineup and it gives us an opportunity to have a little versatility, and defensively it allows us to do some different things that we haven’t been able to do with two big guys out there,” Gentry said.
With the Pelicans (12-21) winning for the third time in four games, Davis got the most attention, but his play was complemented by one of New Orleans’ best offensive performances of the season.
The Pelicans shot 52.9 percent from the field (37 of 70) and 48.0 percent from long range after shooting just 37.1 percent in a 91-87 victory over Miami on Friday night.
Reserve guard Langston Galloway made all five of his 3-point attempts and scored 17 points for New Orleans, and the Pelicans canned 12 of 25 from long range. Guards E’Twaun Moore and Buddy Hield combined to go 4 of 7 from 3-point range.
“The guy who beat us was Galloway,” said Dallas coach Rick Carlisle. “He put in five threes, and we never really got close enough to contest them. That was the biggest transgression of the night.”
Davis’ fourth consecutive game of at least 28 points and 15 rebounds makes him the first NBA player to do that since Shawn Marion in 2006.
Davis scored nine points in the final 5:51. He made his two field-goal attempts — a rebound follow and an 18-foot fadeaway jumper — and canned 5 of 6 free throws. He also had three rebounds and a blocked shot in the final minutes.
The Pelicans made 13 of 14 free-throw attempts in the fourth quarter.
“I think (the lineup change) was good because we could switch (defensively) one through four,” Davis said. “I really like that lineup, and we were able to do a lot offensively and defensively. I’m going to play whatever; it doesn’t matter. If coach needs me at the five and thinks it’s a good matchup for us, he’s going to do that.”
Asked if he would make the small lineup a “full-time” change, Gentry smiled and said: “‘Full-time’ is a really, really deep word in the NBA. If you’re asking me if we’re probably going to do it the next couple of games, there’s a good possibility.”
The Mavericks (9-22) saw their modest two-game winning streak end. Guard Deron Williams scored 24 points and handed out nine assists to top Dallas. Center Dirk Nowitzki, who returned on Friday from a strained Achilles after having missed the previous 14 games, again played just 17 minutes — all in the first half — and scored 10 points. Nowitzki remained in the Mavericks’ locker room after halftime and did a cardio workout.
“Our schedule between November and December has been a beast,” Nowitzki said. “We’ve had the toughest schedule, I’m sure. The good thing is, once you get through the stretch, January is probably the easiest month out of all of them. We have multiple two-day breaks … so we just have to get through that stretch. We’ll fight through it.”
The Mavericks host the Houston Rockets Tuesday night, and Carlisle said he was not sure if Nowitzki would be able to play the second night of a back-to-back.
“I don’t know,” Carlisle said. “We’ll know tomorrow. That’s all I can tell you right now.”
Galloway’s fourth 3-pointer of the game put the Pelicans on top 88-77 early in the fourth quarter, but Williams hit back-to-back 3-pointers to draw Dallas within 95-94 with 4:35 left.
The Pelicans widened their lead to 85-77 with a 30-point third quarter, highlighted by making 5 of 8 from behind the arc. Galloway led the way with a pair of 3-pointers, and Hill, Hield and Moore had one each.