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AD scores 41 in frosty return to New Orleans

NEW ORLEANS — As the lights dimmed in the Smoothie King Center for the national anthem and a calm came over the crowd, one New Orleans Pelicans fan let Anthony Davis know exactly what he thought about his return to the city he once called home.

“AD’s a sellout!”

It was just a precursor to the type of night Davis was going to receive on Wednesday night as the Los Angeles Lakers forward played his first game in New Orleans since an offseason trade.

From the moment Davis hit the floor in warmups, the boos came crashing down from the top of the Smoothie King Center.

But Davis got the last laugh, scoring a game-high 41 points in the Lakers’ 114-110 win.

Davis said experiencing the boos last year while he was still a member of the Pelicans — when he was booed in his first game back after requesting a trade — helped ease him into Wednesday’s game. It also helped that LeBron James has had his share of returns to former teams as well.

“He went through a lot worse from what he told me. I just got boos…I felt good coming to the game when the ball was tipped,” Davis said. “I think coming in and just worrying about what was on the floor and not what the crowd was saying or whatever. I did here something during the national anthem. That was the only time, it was super quiet. Other than that I didn’t really hear much. I actually got some love when I was sitting on the bench from some Pelican fans.”

Davis’ exit from the Crescent City was a drawn out affair that started when he requested a trade in January but wasn’t dealt until the summer.

On Wednesday, Pelicans fans relentlessly booed Davis any time he touched the ball but the razzing wasn’t just reserved for New Orleans’ former No. 1 pick, James received his share of boos as well. James, the first person announced in the starting lineups, was booed in the early going but as the game wore on, the boos focused on Davis.

Every time Davis touched the ball, the boos of Pelicans’ fans drowned out the cheers of the purple and gold-clad fans in the crowd. If Davis made a shot, the Lakers fans would stand up and cheer. If he missed, it made the Pelicans fans cheered as if Brandon Ingram or Jrue Holiday made a basket.

Davis’ teammates heard those boos throughout the night and had other ideas about where they should’ve been directed.

“New Orleans fans should probably boo their own team for letting him get 40 and come back,” Lakers forward Kyle Kuzma said. “I don’t know what that was. But he was ready for this game. On the way to the arena on the bus he was rapping out loud and he never really does that so you could kinda tell that he was ready to play.”

James said the team could feel throughout the day how much the game meant to Davis.

“We understood, I mean anytime you go back to a place you’ve made a mark, you started you career… you wanna come back and play well,” James said. “We knew that as his brothers… that goal that he had set.”

On top of the 41 points, Davis also helped to seal the game with a steal in the final seconds off a Pelicans’ inbounds play. He went 3-of-4 from the line in the final 5.3 seconds to lift the Lakers to a victory.

“It just happened to work out that way,” Davis said. “I just wanted to get the win. It was a great game. We competed and I think from my perspective everybody in the world that’s all they want. A game like that. Two good teams going at it. I won’t say tension, but everybody wanted to see. It was fun for me. Had a great time but most importantly I was just glad we got the win.”

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