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LOS ANGELES — Having clinched a playoff berth, Anthony Davis and the New Orleans Pelicans are looking ahead.

They are one of five teams in the mix for the No. 4 seed in the wild West, and a win against the Spurs in their regular season finale would give the Pelicans home-court advantage.

“We know we’re not done,” Davis said after scoring 28 points in a 113-100 win over the Los Angeles Clippers on Monday night. “It wasn’t just our goal to get here, but to make some noise.”

Nikola Mirotic had 24 points and 16 rebounds in the Pelicans’ fourth straight victory. They’ll be making just their second playoff appearance in seven years, having earned it without big man DeMarcus Cousins, who sustained a season-ending Achilles injury on Jan. 28.

The Pelicans proceeded to lose four of five before winning 10 in a row.

“When he went down, everybody on the team just picked it up,” Davis said.

Sindarius Thornwell scored 20 points off the bench, DeAndre Jordan had 15 rebounds and Montrezl Harrell added 15 points for the Clippers, who have lost three in a row while being eliminated from playoff contention.

The Pelicans shot 51 percent from the field and 56 percent from 3-point range in the first half. The Clippers fought back from an 11-point deficit to lead 47-45 before New Orleans closed on a 13-2 run to lead 59-49 at the break.

The Pelicans were just getting rolling.

Their scoring binge continued into the third, and when it was over — a 33-6 spurt over both halves — they led 79-53. Davis had nine points, Mirotic eight and E’Twaun Moore seven.

“Anthony has taken this team and put it on his back,” Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry said. “If we could have had a better record his name would definitely be in the MVP conversation.”

Davis stirred the crowd with an off the glass pass from Rajon Rondo that resulted in a one-handed alley-oop dunk in the run.

“That was exciting,” teammate Jrue Holiday said. “I’d rather him do that in the playoffs than now.”

Thornwell got a roar for a jam over DeAndre Liggins in the game’s final minutes.


Pelicans: They improved to 26-25 vs the West. … They won the season series 3-1. … New Orleans hasn’t made it past the first round of the playoffs since 2007-08.

Clippers: C Boban Marjanovic scored 10 of his 12 points in the fourth. … Starting guards Austin Rivers (right elbow soreness) and Lou Williams (sprained right ankle) sat out, but are likely to return for Wednesday’s season finale.


Since shaving his beard last week, Mirotic has played like a new man. He came in averaging 28 points and shooting 56 percent from the field, compared to 14.6 points and 28 percent shooting with the beard he’d had since 2013. “You look like you’re 18 now, so you’re getting some calls,” Gentry told Mirotic.

Rookie C.J. Williams was signed to a multi-year contract after being a two-way player this season. The 28-year-old guard has appeared in 37 games for the Clippers — he started Monday — and 16 games for their NBA G League affiliate in Ontario. The North Carolina State graduate played in France, Greece and Italy and the G League before signing with the Clippers last fall. “I actually cried for about an hour,” said Williams, who surprised his visiting parents with the news. “You think of all the things you’ve done to get to this point.” Coach Doc Rivers said Williams is “a great, great person to have in your locker room. He came in and proved he’s an NBA player.”


“The MVP is (James) Harden. I’m going to announce it tonight.” — Rivers.


Pelicans: They host San Antonio to end the regular season on Wednesday.

Clippers: They host the Lakers on Wednesday in both teams’ season finale.

More NBA basketball: https://apnews.com/tag/NBAbasketball

Check out the team sites for the New Orleans Pelicans and the LA Clippers for more game coverage.

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The last time the Carolina Panthers took a safety in the first round of the NFL draft, it was a kid from Georgia who turned into one of the best linebackers in the NFL.

That was Thomas Davis in 2005.

The Panthers never have selected a true safety in the first round, but there are reasons to believe it could happen this year.

When: April 26-28
Where: Arlington, Texas
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Starting strong safety Mike Adams is 37 and is in the last year of his contract — and probably his NFL career. Da’Norris Searcy, signed in free agency, lost his starting job at Tennessee last year and never has put up impressive numbers.

Nobody behind them has stellar credentials, either.

So with a strong class of safeties available, Carolina could use the No. 24 pick on one that could either start immediately or begin developing for the future.

Then again, general manager Marty Hurney hasn’t used a draft pick on a safety higher than the third round — Charles Godfrey in 2008. The Panthers in general, based on the way they have filled in the safety positions, don’t believe in investing a lot there.

So using a first-round draft pick on one might be a stretch, particularly if that player isn’t going to start immediately.

If they do, here is a look at five players to consider as I begin a look at the top positions the Panthers could target in the first round:
Minkah Fitzpatrick, Alabama: Has the versatility to play safety or even linebacker in passing situations and cover the slot receiver or tight end. He epitomizes what teams are looking for at that position with his blend of size (6-foot-1, 201 pounds) speed, power and versatility. He’s been said to have the mentality of Bama coach Nick Saban, who in a recent interview said, “He’s better than me in a lot of ways.’’ Saban also has touted Fitzpatrick as a top-five pick. He’s at worst a top-15 pick, so the Panthers likely would have to trade up for a player that in three years had 171 tackles (16 for loss), nine interception (four for touchdowns) and 4.5 sacks.
Derwin James, Florida State: He’s been compared to Eric Berry, the five-time Pro Bowl selection for the Kansas City Chiefs who was the fifth overall pick in 2010. Proved at FSU he can play either safety position. The Panthers like flexibility here. Kurt Coleman went from a starting free safety in 2015, when he led the team with seven interceptions, to strong safety in 2016 and back to free in 2017 before being released this offseason for salary-cap reasons. Potentially has the versatility to play the slot corner like Jacksonville’s Jalen Ramsey.
Justin Reid, Stanford: He’s not the physical presence as some of the other top safeties, but he’s a smart player that can play deep safety and move into the slot if needed. He’s the brother of San Francisco safety Eric Reid, who has started 54 games the past four years. That Justin can play either safety spot again fits into what Carolina likes at the position.

Ronnie Harrison, Alabama: Great athleticism and is strong in the running game. Not afraid to make the big hit. Would be a great fit to develop as a replacement for Adams, but can the Panthers really afford to spend a first-round pick on a player that won’t start right away? Definitely would add speed to the secondary, but doesn’t always use it to the best of his ability.

Jessie Bates III, Wake Forest: Not a player expected to go in the first round, in large part because the class is so strong ahead of him. So if the Panthers like him enough to use a draft pick, they’ll probably hold out until the second or third round. He has great coverage skills and could fit in immediately as a deep safety.