Heh, ain't that the truth.
New Orleans went on the road where they've, at times, struggled this year and blew away an admittedly terrible Cavaliers team behind a monster night from Anthony Davis, the final score doing its best to hide the true brutality of Cleveland's performance. It's tough to read too much into the overall efficiency numbers with the Pelicans stepping so fully off the gas in the 4th quarter that Anthony Bennett was able to score (really), but in most senses, it was a very well rounded performance. I wouldn't take Anthony Davis over Kyrie Irving on the strength of this single game but rather their respective performances over the last year and a half; still, even isolating this night alone, it was relatively obvious to the neutral observer who the more impactful player was.
Davis dominated at the rim defensively, turning away 8 shots, covering tremendous ground quickly, and just generally leaving great wreckage in his wake. It is, in some senses, quite unfair to compare Irving's defense to Davis' simply due to the defensive potentials of the pair's respective positions, but Irving was nonetheless entirely invisible on that end. Davis of course was rather more opaque than the Cavs may have preferred. And, sure, it was abetted by Cleveland's maddening tendency to over-play Irving off the ball, but Anthony Davis clearly outperformed Irving on the offensive end as well, taking more shots, getting to the free throw line more, scoring more, and even finishing with just two fewer assists.
Off to some player notes:
- Eric Gordon did his work when it mattered most -- during the counter-intuitively higher leverage moments of the early game, which led to the early blowout. This is a good example of a game where his fourth quarter stats will be held unfairly against him, but without Gordon, this game likely doesn't progress out of a spirited back-and-forth until much later. His shot was on, his willingness to drive was on display, and most impressively, he finished with 9 assists and 0 turnovers.
- I'll admit I groaned as Stiemsma walked on, a bit loudly even. But he played a crucial role in the second quarter run that blew it open, contributing a jumper, a charge taken, and a beautiful touch pass to an AD slam. Because I'm cynical, I'm going to hold on to the "Anthony Bennett was playing center. Anthony. Bennnett. was. playing. center." line of defense pretty firmly, but still a nice night for the Steamer.
- Both Austin Rivers (back) and Davis (dislocated finger that the training staff may or may not have popped back in??) sustained injuries down the stretch. Welp.
- Good gravy, Tyreke Evans was awful. 5 assists though! 5 stealth assists. New Orleans' ball movement was fantastic through the night with 70% of made field goals assisted by teammates.
- "NWT - RIGHT TIBIA STRESS FRACTURE". It just gets sadder to read by the game.