Anthony Davis is no stranger to snapping lengthy winning streaks.
Facing the defending champion Spurs, a team with plenty at steak as it entered the regular season finale in a tie with Houston and Memphis for the second best record in the Western Conference, and their 11-game winning streak.
New Orleans had plenty more at steak, as a loss would have ended its season.
Only Davis wouldn’t let it happen.
Earlier in the year, Davis helped Atlanta’s franchise-record 19-game winning streak with a 29 point, 13 rebound effort and proved to be just as dominant with his teams’ playoff hopes on the line.
The 6-foot-10 forward knocked down a pair of free throws with four seconds remaining, capping a 108-103 victory over the Spurs to clinch the eighth seed in the Western Conference, setting up a first round meeting with Golden State.
The victory was a necessity, as Oklahoma City routed the Timberwolves to finish with an identical 45-37 record as the Pelicans, but since it lost the season series 3-1 to New Orleans, it failed to qualify for the post season.
New Orleans hadn’t secured a playoff berth since 2011, the year prior to selecting Davis with the first overall pick.
Not only did he face the burden of blossoming into a superstar, he had to fill the void left by Chris Paul following his strange departure from the franchise.
There is no question Davis has emerged as the face of the franchise.
In his two plus seasons, Davis has morphed into the most dominant defender, leading the league in blocks per game for consecutive seasons.
The shot blocking ability was expected following his dominant freshman season at Kentucky, when he turned back 186 shots in 40 college appearances.
The accelerated development of his offensive game has enabled him to become a prime candidate in the MVP conversation.
For the year, Davis converted 53.5 percent from the field and led the NBA in 2-point field goals made with 641 field goals.
San Antonio couldn’t find a way to slow him down in the opening quarter Wednesday night.
The 21-year-old scored 10 points on 4-of-6 shooting from the field and grabbed three rebounds as the Pelicans built a 15 point lead after the first quarter.
A deflected pass wound up in his hands and Davis managed to sprint past the San Antonio defense for a tomahawk jam.
The lead for New Orleans inflated to 23 points, but the Spurs managed to crawl back into the game.
San Antonio out scored the Pelicans 56-45 in the second half and a 3-pointer from Patty Mills with 11 seconds remaining in the contest reduced its deficit to just three points.
New Orleans managed to snap a three year playoff drought by converting its free throws down the stretch, with Davis converting the final pair to clinch the victory.
The win finalized an improbable run to the post season.
Just three weeks ago, the playoff hopes of the Pelicans seemed to be vanquished following a 95-93 loss to Houston, a game tarnished by a 6-of-14 shooting effort from Davis at the foul line.
He wouldn’t leave the Toyota Center court until he made 100 free throws.
The loss to the Rockets put New Orleans 3.5 games back of the Thunder for the final playoff seed.
Instead of getting rattled, the team rallied behind the play of Davis and he helped the team win eight of its final 11 games of the year by averaging 23 points, 9.0 rebounds and 3.1 blocks per game.
In the first truly must-win game of his career, Davis delivered 31 points, 13 rebounds, three blocks, two assists and two steals, as the Pelicans clinched its first season series win over San Antonio since 2002-03.
The reward for making the playoffs is a date with Golden State, a team that won the season series 3-1 over the Pelicans (as Davis sat out in two of the losses) as it finished with the best record in the NBA.
The only glaring omission for Davis during his three-year NBA career was a failure to make the post season.
In need of a victory against the reigning champions, Davis clearly stood out as the best player on the floor and delivered the critical win.