NEW ORLEANS – Anthony Davis had little to say about his latest dunk-filled scoring outburst. He even shrugged off his seldom-seen “Shammgod” crossover dribble that stunned the Grizzlies, delighted the crowd and set up his thunderous driving dunk.
The Pelicans’ perennial All-Star was more eager to highlight an improved defensive performance that has given them hope of stringing some victories together before the season gets away from them.
Davis had 36 points, 13 rebounds and three blocked shots, and New Orleans pulled away for a 114-95 victory over reeling Memphis on Monday night.
“That’s how we were able to be successful last year, by playing defense,” Davis said. “It leads us to get a lot of transition points, fast-break points and easy buckets, gets guys wide-open 3s and stuff like that.”
Mike Conley had 22 points and 10 assists for Memphis, but that was not nearly enough to stem what is now a six-game slide.
Rookie forward Yuta Watanabe, meanwhile, appeared in his fourth game for Memphis , tying former Phoenix Suns point guard Yuta Tabuse, who has played for the Tochigi Brex since 2008, for the most NBA appearances by a Japanese player.
The 24-year-old Watanabe, who also plays for the NBA G League’s Memphis Hustle, scored two points in a 3-minute fourth-quarter stint after the Pelicans had already put the game out of reach.
Watanabe hit a free-throw line jumper with the Grizzlies trailing by 22 points and then missed a 3-pointer as Memphis went on to suffer a sixth straight loss and drop to 13th in the 15-team Western Conference.
It was Watanabe’s first appearance for the Grizzlies since Dec. 17. Later that week, the small forward scored in double digits in two straight games to help the Hustle sweep their games at the G League Showcase.
Second-year pro Frank Jackson scored a career-high 17 points for New Orleans, which has won two straight for the first time since winning three in a row in mid-November.
Randle finished with 15 points for New Orleans, while Jrue Holiday scored 13 and Elfrid Payton 11.
Showcasing his above-the-rim skills, Davis dunked seven times. His last dunk came after he received an underhanded, no-look pass from Holiday as he cut down the lane. That made it 107-85 with a little more than three minutes left, and Davis checked out for good moments later.
Spurs 119, Pistons 107
In Detroit, DeMar DeRozan scored 26 points, and coach Gregg Popovich moved another step higher on the NBA’s career wins list as San Antonio defeated Pistons.
Popovich has 1,221 victories. He’s tied with Jerry Sloan for third place, trailing only Don Nelson and Lenny Wilkens.
A 23-2 run spanning parts of the first and second quarters put the Spurs up 45-33.
LaMarcus Aldridge scored 25 points for San Antonio.
Blake Griffin had 34 for the Pistons and Andre Drummond added 19 points and 14 rebounds.
The Spurs were without forward Rudy Gay, sidelined with a sprained left wrist, but they still won a season-high fifth straight game. Detroit has lost seven of nine.
“I thought after the first quarter, we competed well, we were sharper and we executed better,” Popovich said.
Lakers 107, Mavericks 97
In Dallas, Brandon Ingram scored 29 points and Lonzo Ball added 21 as Los Angeles handed the Mavericks a rare home loss.
The duo helped rally the Lakers from a double-digit halftime deficit.
Luka Doncic scored 27 points to lead Dallas, which fell to 16-4 at home.
In Other Games
Rockets 125, Nuggets 113
Bucks 114, Jazz 102
Celtics 116, Nets 95
Trail Blazers 111, Knicks 101
Kings 111, Magic 95