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Pelicans' Anthony Davis makes an early return in fine form in loss to Clippers

Anthony Davis made an early return for the Pelicans. (Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)Pelicans big man Anthony Davis looked fully effective in his return from a hand fracture. (Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)A

In a surprise move on a packed NBA Wednesday, New Orleans big man Anthony Davis made his return to the court ahead of schedule after suffering a non-displaced fracture in his left hand earlier this month.

The injury in question occurred during the first quarter of the Pelicans' win over the Knicks on Dec. 1, when -- according to the Times-Picayune -- Davis suffered the injury when he hit his hand on the rim while attempting a dunk. Soon after he was diagnosed with a non-displaced fracture, an injury that was expected to rule him out for game action for 4-6 weeks. That timetable was given less than three weeks ago, yet Davis made a full, active return to the floor for the Pelicans on Wednesday in their 108-95 loss to the Clippers.

If Davis had missed four weeks, he would have been sidelined for 12 games; if he had taken the full six weeks to return to the court, he would have missed 20 games. Instead, Davis made his return after being absent for just seven games -- during which the Pelicans went an admirable 3-4. With Wednesday's loss to the Clippers, that brings the Pelicans' overall record to 11-13 for the season, still well within the playoff hunt.

In that regard New Orleans is still a bit of a long shot, though having a healthy -- and confident -- Davis back in the lineup goes a long way. Davis wasn't at all shy about making use of that injured left hand on Wednesday, which was put in passing lanes for deflections, lofted high to contest shots and used to throw down a variety of dunks. In all, Davis was as widely influential as one could possibly expect, as validated by a box score output of 24 points (on 10-of-18 shooting), 12 rebounds, and three steals in 32 minutes of action.

Davis' quick return, too, leaves open the possibility of the former No. 1 overall pick securing the first All-Star berth of his career. Davis was productive in his first year as a pro, but he appeared in just 64 games for a losing team during his rookie season, hindering his All-Star résumé. His credentials are a bit more solid this time around, as Davis is currently averaging 19.1 points, 10.3 rebounds, and a league-best 3.4 blocks while shooting 50.2 percent from the field. Impressive numbers, all, that in amalgam help put Davis in the top 10 in Player Efficiency Rating, Win Shares per minute, Offensive Rating, rebounds per game, and blocks per game.

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