Remember when Anthony Davis was an MVP candidate, set to rival LeBron James, Stephen Curry and James Harden in the 2016 season? Well, in the span of about 2 hours, all that talk quickly evaporated into thin air. On the strength of a 1-16 and 4 turnover start, the Pelicans superstar was only able to helplessly watch Curry lay claim to another Most Valuable Player Award.
Gauging social media before the game, the Pelicans had apparently lost the game before it had even tipped. The majority were adamantly upset that New Orleans had decided to sit Jrue Holiday for the opening game of the season instead of in Portland tomorrow night. It was as though it was an admission of concession to the world champions, and it would somehow sift through the rest of the roster.
In hindsight, it was probably a wise move. In the first half, Eric Gordon, Anthony Davis and Ryan Anderson combined to shoot 4-22 from the floor. The team defense and rebounding were just as abysmal (more on that later). The only thing that kept the Pelicans within striking distance -- a halftime deficit of 10 points -- was Ish Smith and Kendrick Perkins.
Yep, the team's 3rd-string center and the emergency point guard signee from less than 48 hours ago led the Pelicans charge for most of the night. As to where they and other role players like Dante Cunningham and Alonzo Gee looked comfortable within Alvin Gentry's uptempo system, most of holdovers from the Monty Williams era did not.
Davis kept on firing up shot after shot from the perimeter with usually a hand in his face. Shot charts don't lie.
Gordon seemed to be in an abnormal hurry to launch a shot once he found 8 inches of clearance. Anderson, after sitting for the entire first quarter, lacked rhythm throughout.
All three players probably fared even worse defensively, and it was really indicative of the entire team for much of the contest. Rotations were bad, close-outs were late and Golden State ran circles around the Pelicans in the hustle department.
For the game, the Pelicans finished with 33 rebounds with 25 of them coming on the defensive glass. Meanwhile, the Warriors grabbed 56 boards and 21 of them came on the offensive end. For the longest time, it appeared Golden State was going to finish with a higher total on the offensive glass than New Orleans on the defensive end.
Last season, the Pelicans worst Net rebounding game came against the Kings (-20). Pelicans have 23 fewer rebounds thus far than the Warriors— Oleh Kosel (@Redhopeful) October 28, 2015
OUCH!!! Davis and Anderson tied for a team-high 6 rebounds. For comparison's sake, Curry and Leandro Barbosa had 6 rebounds a piece themselves. Surprisingly, the Warriors finished with only a 21-8 second chance point edge.
- Ish Smith was a pleasant surprise, especially in the first half. His speed allowed him to come up with a number of loose balls in space as well as breakdown the Warriors defense. Considering the knock on him is a lack of a credible jumper, his offense will be more than adequate. Even if he can't live from the perimeter, his ability to get inside and convert (5-5 from inside the restricted area) was a welcome sight as well as finding open teammates. So much so, I wouldn't be surprised to hear news he is supplanting Nate Robinson (19 minutes, 0 points, -21 +/-) on the depth chart as soon as tomorrow.
- Dante Cunningham started off the game more aggressive offensively than I can ever recall. Several times early in the game, he drove from the perimeter to the restricted area. Once the Warriors awoke from their amazement, he knocked down several three-point attempts. The bad news? He had to leave the game after a bad collision with Andrew Bogut.
- Alonzo Gee rocked the rim with several impressive dunks and finished with a very efficient 8 points, 5 rebounds and 3 steals. If Cunningham isn't able to go tomorrow against the Blazers, look for Gee to draw the start. If Luke Babbitt is unable to go again, Gee is going to get all the minutes he can handle at small forward.
- Anthony Davis normally finds himself a lot higher in the game notes section. Tonight is that rare and unfortunate exception. For whatever reason, he just didn't have it. From his offense to his hustle to his defense, it was all out of sorts. For the first time in his career, I really think he felt the pressure of the moment. We've all witnessed Davis shoot free throws before, and tonight's 4-9 start from the charity stripe, clearly indicated he was mentally not in the game.
- Eric Gordon looked like the 2015 version of himself: he had difficulty getting off good shots inside the paint, getting to the free throw line or making shots off the move. Just like with Davis, let's give him a one game reprieve. During preseason, he was stronger and more sure of himself. I guess we should probably include Ryan Anderson in this group as well.
Dante Cunningham is being evaluated in the @PelicansNBA locker room with a concussion.— Daniel Sallerson (@dsallerson) October 28, 2015
The Pelicans, especially the still-standing stars of this team, need to shake off tonight's bad loss because their next game is in less than 24 hours in Portland. Although the Blazers lost most of their star power this past off-season, New Orleans cannot take them for granted, not with the way they looked on the floor at the Oracle. The Moda Center is another difficult place to play, and with facing another opponent's home opener, the Pelicans are going to get the Blazers best shot.
Fortunately, New Orleans will be with the services of Jrue Holiday. Although he'll be limited to around 20 minutes of action, he should help the team find some of the necessary footing. Without a doubt, Davis is probably going to come out like gangbusters, resolute to prove the game against the Warriors was a bad anomaly.
Let's just hope, though, that Dante Cunningham is not going to miss much if any time. Otherwise, the Pelicans could be staring square in the face at a hardship exemption with Omer Asik, Quincy Pondexter, Norris Cole, Tyreke Evans and Luke Babbitt sidelined.
To acquire a hardship exception, which allows a team to exceed the 15-man maximum roster, four players must miss at least three consecutive games and be out a minimum of an additional two weeks. An independent league physician has to grant the waiver based on the estimated timetables of all the players.
Early last season, the Oklahoma City Thunder took a hardship exemption, and coincidentally signed Ish Smith after they lost a slew of players including Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant, Anthony Morrow and Jeremy Lamb. We all know how their season turned out. Playoff-less.