NEW ORLEANS — Anthony Davis smiled slightly and joked about his relative youth when the topic of his heavy workload came up.
His nearly 40 minutes on the court against Oklahoma City was hardly an anomaly this season, but Davis isn’t ready to plead for more rest yet.
Davis scored 44 points and grabbed 18 rebounds, and the inconsistent New Orleans Pelicans narrowly held on to defeat the Thunder 118-114 on Wednesday night.
“Whatever coach needs me to do, the team needs me to do to win, that’s what I’m going to do,” said Davis, who has averaged about 37 minutes for a team that has played an NBA-high 30 games so far this season. “I’m 25 years old. So, ask me about five years from now.”
Jrue Holiday had 20 points and 10 assists, and Julius Randle added 22 for New Orleans, which has alternated wins and losses in its past 10 games.
“It was a big win for us,” Davis said. “We’ve got to put a string of wins together and of course it starts tonight. (Oklahoma City) was the No. 1 team in the West coming into tonight and a team that’s rolling. They’ve got a lot of great players on their team. We tried to make sure this game was about us and make sure we get back to what we do.”
Paul George had 25 points and 11 rebounds, and Dennis Schroder scored 24 points for Oklahoma City, which came in having won five of its previous six. Russell Westbrook had 20 points and four steals but did not appear as eager as usual to shoot, hitting 8 of 16 shots. Steven Adams also scored 20.
New Orleans seemed in control, leading 116-109 with less than 1:20 left when consecutive turnovers led to five quick Thunder points. Westbrook scored on a fast break that he initiated by breaking up Holiday’s pass. Then another Westbrook steal during Holiday’s drive led to George’s fast-break layup as he was fouled.
After Davis’ missed a driving floater, Oklahoma City had an unusual possession in which no player seemed inclined to shoot, and a series of passes led to Westbrook’s late-shot-clock 3 attempt, which rimmed out. Randle was fouled after his rebound, but missed two free throws to give the Thunder another chance.
Westbrook again elected not to shoot, and Alex Abrines’ 3 for the lead rimmed out. Solomon Hill, who had eight points, came down with his seventh rebound and made both foul shots with less than a second left to seal the victory.
Davis was dominant throughout, dunking seven times, including several times on crowd-pleasing alley-oops, to go with a 3 and an array of mid-range floaters and jumpers.
“He’s a great player; it takes a team to stop him,” guard Terrance Ferguson said. “We really didn’t focus on that tonight and we let our players go one-on-one against him.”
Davis scored 18 of his points in the third quarter, when New Orleans went in front for good in a competitive game that included 12 ties, 17 lead changes and no lead larger than nine points.
Thunder: Westbrook was assessed a technical foul in the third quarter by official David Guthrie for appearing to argue that a foul should have been called on his missed layup. … Westbrook blocked layup attempts by Pelicans rookie guard Frank Jackson twice. … Jerami Grant committed fouls off the ball twice in the first two minutes of the third quarter, at which point he had five fouls for the game and was subbed out. He did not return until 7:50 remained.
Pelicans: Forward Nikola Mirotic sat out after injuring his right ankle during Monday night’s loss at Boston. … Guard E’Twaun Moore also sat out with a strained muscle in his lower leg. … Combined, Mirotic and Moore have been averaging 31.4 points per game. … Randle has scored at least 20 points in six straight. … Darius Miller scored 10 points. … With Moore out, Jackson was recalled from the G League and scored eight points in 19 minutes off the bench.
Davis and Randle helped New Orleans outscore the Thunder 74-48 in the paint. Holiday also was able to score his share inside on dribble drives.
“I’m getting in the paint, AD’s already in the paint and so is Ju’,” Holiday said. “To be able to stop that is pretty tough.”
Oklahoma City shot 48.3 percent, but missed 30 of 43 from 3-point range.
“We really moved the ball well, and they really collapsed the paint with Davis, Randle, and (Cheick) Diallo,” Donovan said. “This really left us with a lot of good quality 3-point shots, and we didn’t make those at a high enough level.”
“It’s not like we depend on them to carry the load. They are the load. It’s who we’re going to go to,” Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry said when asked about Davis, Randle and Holiday combining for 86 points.
Thunder: Visit Denver on Friday.
Pelicans: Host Miami on Sunday.