In what was supposed to be a showcase night for the Pelicans, Anthony Davis, and the rest of an up and coming team out West, New Orleans showed all of its glaring deficiencies and was outplayed (and outscored 90-57) badly the final 3 quarters, en route to a 112-85 loss to the Western Conference-leading Golden State Warriors.
After an excellent first quarter which saw Davis and Omer Asik dominate the glass and the Pelicans' defense hold Golden State to 22 points on 10 for 27 shooting (37%), New Orleans was a mess on both sides of the ball, especially on defense, where they allowed 43 fast break points and 62 points in the paint. The three-headed monster of Stephen Curry (19 points, 11 assists), Klay Thompson (23 points) and Harrison Barnes (17 points) combined for 59 points on 23 of 45 shooting (51%) and 8 combined threes.
Anthony Davis led New Orleans with a typical Brow-esque stat line of 30 points, 15 rebounds, 3 blocks, 3 assists and 2 steals. And while the rest of the team did not put their best foot forward in front of the national television audience, Davis validated why we is a legitimate MVP candidate, showcasing his expanded offensive repertoire of mid range jumpers, right handed floaters and left handed drives. And of course his trademark athleticism was on display as well:
The 2nd quarter marked the beginning of the downfall for the Pelicans, during which the team was outscored 31-12 and the deficiencies we've come to know, but not love, reared their ugly head, and in front of a TNT national television audience to boot. Monty put out a lineup of Rivers, Salmons, the newly acquired Dante Cunningham, Anderson and Asik, and within three minutes the game was tied at 30 and the super large (and super slow) lineup being employed was having serious issues. New arrival Cunningham in particular committed a few costly errors that led to points off of turnovers, and he was promptly removed from the action and replaced by the equally sloppy Tyreke Evans, whose night we will touch on later. The team's inability to run a coherent offense led to many empty possessions, and a mini burst by Curry and Thompson at the end of the quarter put the Warriors up by double digits. They would never look back.
The Golden State lead rose to 19 at the seven minute mark of the 3rd quarter, punctuated by a Harrison Barnes tomahawk slam after a blow-by of the slow-footed Babbitt, who along with fellow lead-footed vets Salmons and Cunningham, had no chance of staying with the Warriors array of fleet-footed wings. Evans and Anderson's offensive struggles continued in the quarter, and if it wasn't for a couple late in the shot clock buckets by Salmons and a Rivers transition dunk off a Holiday pick pocket of Curry, the lead after 36 minutes would've been even greater.
The Pelicans couldn't make a serious run in the 4th, and a 14-point gap was as close as the deficit would be shortened in the period. Davis isolation sets were the only fruitful offense the team could muster, and the team continued its struggles finding open shooters in transition and half court sets, and the Warriors being the elite shooting team that they are, made New Orleans pay dearly.
Specific player performances for the game were as lopsided as the final score. As alluded to before, both Tyreke Evans and Ryan Anderson (the 2nd and 3rd options on offense for the team, respectively) struggled mightily from the floor. Evans' line of 11 points and 5 assists on 4 of 15 shooting in 36 minutes (to go along with 7 turnovers, 5 missed layups, 2 offensive fouls and a -14 plus/minus) does not adequately show how awful a night Tyreke had. He made several sloppy turnovers, looked out of control on many of his drives, and his shot has reverted back to the brick-tastic form we came to know for the majority of last season. Anderson (4 points on 2 of 9 shooting and a very un-Ryno like 0 of 5 from beyond the arc) had an uncharacteristic cold shooting night by his standards, but he never got into a rhythm with the offense (just like the rest of the roster not named Anthony Davis) and he was one of the main culprits responsible for the team's poor defensive showing.
Jrue Holiday chipped in 12 points and 8 assists in his 33 minutes, but he and AD never got their pick and roll game going (thanks to the terrific defense of Andrew Bogut). Holiday forced some shots on possessions because of the offensive struggles of his teammates and general lethargy on that side of the ball for the final 36 minutes. Salmons and Babbitt both had meh performances in the 39 combined minutes they played (and worse than meh on the defensive side for both). New signee Dante Cunningham could only muster 2 points and 3 rebounds in his limited time, and missed five of the six jump shots he took. Look for the former Villanova Wildcat to see increased run in the rotation at both forward spots because of his defensive flexibility and ability to shoot from mid-range, which our own David Fisher alluded to earlier today.
Meanwhile, the Warriors won their franchise-best 11th straight contest and showed why they should be considered legitimate contenders for the Western Conference crown. They displayed a nice balance on offense and the ingredients and necessary positional flexibility on defense to put a fear into even the most talented offensive squads in the league.
Andrew Bogut is the perfect defensive lynchpin who can cover the mistakes Curry (not good defensively) and Thompson (pretty dang good on D) make while recovering and rotating with good foot speed for a center his size. Marreese Speights poured in 12 points and 6 rebounds in his 17 minutes of run, and the Pelicans made him look like a world-beater in transition. Leandro Barbosa and Andre Iguodala contributed off the bench as well, and with Draymond Green continuing his strong play (14 points and 14 boards) starting and playing heavy minutes (32 tonight) in place of the injured David Lee, you have to wonder if either Iguodala or Lee's days in Oakland will be numbered when all are back healthy. Regardless, it's a problem a lot of teams (including the depth-starved Pelicans) would love to have.
New Orleans, who fell to 8-9 on the season with the loss, continues the current road trip with a back-to-back this weekend. It starts with a Saturday night contest with the Clippers at Staples Center, followed up by their second meeting of the year with Kobe Bryant and the Lakers in the very same building on Sunday.
If one lesson was to be learned from the Beatdown by the Bay tonight, it's that no matter how awesome Anthony Davis is, it's gonna take top-notch performances from the team's other core members to unseat the established playoff contingents out West. Golden State is clicking on all cylinders, but the Pelicans' can't win consistently in this conference with only one of theirs clicking at a time.