Davis and what the draft can offer

March, 16, 2014
Mar 16
11:44
PM ET
If Joel Embiid or Andrew Wiggins or Jabari Parker are half as good as Anthony Davis, then Boston Celtics fans should be just fine with being on the wrong end of Sunday's 121-120 overtime loss to the New Orleans Pelicans.

Davis, the No. 1 pick in 2012's draft, put up a career-high 40 points and added 21 rebounds, becoming the first player to log a 40/20 game versus Boston since a 31-year-old Shaquille O'Neal in 2003. Davis turned 21 just five days ago.

[+] EnlargeAnthony Davis
Derick E. Hingle/USA TODAY SportsAnthony Davis torched the Celtics for 40 points and 21 rebounds on Sunday.
Make no mistake, Brad Stevens and his Celtics players really wanted Sunday's game, particularly after Kris Humphries hit a ridiculous buzzer-beater over Davis at the end of regulation to force overtime. But it's hard to get too worked up about loss No. 45 when you see the sort of impact player the upper reaches of the draft can produce.

It's not fair to ask any of this year's draft class to be Davis; not all top picks are the same (right, Anthony Bennett?). But between guys like Davis and Kyrie Irving -- two of the most recent to hang 40 points on Boston -- it's a friendly reminder of the talent that can be delivered.

"I think [Davis is] unreal," Celtics coach Brad Stevens told reporters in New Orleans. "I came into the [first] game [against New Orleans] in January thinking he’s an All-Star, and I leave here after twice playing him saying, ‘If there’s 10 guys better in the league, I haven’t seen them.’ He’s really a special player."

The Pelicans are headed back to the lottery (though their pick is likely headed to Philadelphia) again this season, so even with a transcendent talent such as Davis, there's no guarantee that things will turn around in the blink of an eye. But it sure can't hurt.

The Celtics will remain tied with Utah for the fourth-worst record in basketball (the idle Lakers are lurking a half-game in front, while the Kings are just a game ahead). Boston continues to produce highly entertaining and competitive games, while having lost four straight and 11 of its last 14.

More ping-pong balls won't allow Stevens to sleep any easier right now, but maybe he will after April 16.

The Celtics can hang their hat on the fact that they yet again showed resiliency on Sunday and -- outside of the final five seconds of overtime when they failed to foul and give themselves a chance of at least tying the game -- played with excellent poise in crunch time.

As Stevens noted after the game, "One thing we’ve done is we’ve usually played through to the horn."

They'll continue to play until the horn. But Boston's next eight games all are against playoff teams, some of which are fighting for position or to stay about the playoff cutline. That doesn't bode well for getting back in the win column, which isn't a bad thing to some observers.

Some individualized thoughts from Sunday's overtime loss:

• Humphries was a minus-7 in plus/minus and we have no idea how that's possible. He was fantastic yet again and continues to really make a strong case for sticking around beyond this season. The question is whether Boston can afford to keep him around, and, even if they can't, he's only helping his value as a potential sign-and-trade asset with the way he's playing. Humphries finished with 16 points, 12 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 blocks and a steal over 35:39 on Sunday.

Jeff Green had a nice outing. Forget matching his season high of 39 points, the six rebounds and the 12 free throw attempts were the best numbers in his line. The fact that eight of his makes came at the rim was even better (the other four field goals were 3-pointers).

Jerryd Bayless was a minus-17 in 26 minutes. Over his last three games, Bayless is minus-56 in 74 minutes of floor time. Given Boston's team struggles, plus/minus isn't the end-all, be-all here, but it's something. Bayless is averaging 8.7 points, 2.7 assists and 2.3 rebounds over 24.7 minutes per game in that three-game span. It will be interesting to see if Stevens elects to start him at point guard next to Avery Bradley when Rondo sits on Monday (or if Phil Pressey makes a case for the starting spot given how good he's been in place of Rondo lately). Sooner than later it seems likely that the Celtics might start shifting their starting five toward the players that opened overtime in New Orleans: Rondo, Bradley, Green, Jared Sullinger and Humphries.

• Rondo's stat line was pretty good at 6 points, 14 assists, 8 rebounds over 44:31. The downside: He continues to struggle beyond the arc after that fast start during his return from ACL surgery. Rondo has made only one of his last 15 attempts and is on a three-game 3-pointer-less streak. Rondo also seemed to be part of Boston's miscommunicated switch on the final play in which the Celtics failed to foul in a one-point game.

Chris Forsberg

Celtics reporter, ESPNBoston.com

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TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Jeff Green
PTS AST STL MIN
16.9 1.7 0.7 34.2
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsJ. Sullinger 8.1
AssistsR. Rondo 9.8
StealsR. Rondo 1.3
BlocksB. Bass 0.9