Can I just say, I hate this Warriors team so much?
No, it's not because of their style of play, their antics or any other reason fans might find to hate a team. It's due to the fact that 6 of the Pelicans last 7 games have come against the champs, and New Orleans lost all 6 of those by a margin of 10.3 points. And it's not just the final tally, it was the manner with which the birds have progressively lost each game.
I can get behind the loss in Game 1 (of the 2015 NBA playoffs). That was all jitters.
Game 2? That was just the Warriors playing superior team basketball.
But Game 3? Up 5, with 17 seconds left on the clock, you'd think the Pelicans would walk away with a win. But nope. Curry hit back-to-back triples (the last one over the outstretched arms of Anthony Davis and Tyreke Evans) and sent the game into overtime. We lost that heartbreaker by 4.
Curry, after hitting only 14 of his 40 3PT attempts in the first 3 games, exploded for 39 points (on 20 shots) to take Game 4 and swept the Pelicans right out of the playoffs.
Thanks to Alvin Gentry's hiring, the NBA decided to stick it to New Orleans by scheduling the Warriors on opening night and ring night. Steph torched the Pelicans for 24 points in the FIRST quarter. The Pelicans would go on to lose the game by 16 and Curry's 40 points were a huge factor.
And then we come to tonight. The Pelican's home opener. On Halloween.
Let's start with the first quarter. The Pels were doing great things early in the game. They were moving the ball, taking good shots and making them (an important part of shot taking).
They were up by 4 early in the 1st before Pelicans early season MVP, Kendrick Perkins, was taken out of the game due to a strained right pectoral (after fouling the chiseled Ezeli on a drive). Later, Eric Gordon, all athletic and healthy, slammed home a touch pass from Davis in transition.
Those were just some of the highlights of the first. They were taking it to the NBA champs and they were taking the Warriors' punches. It was shaping up to be a fun game. Each time the Warriors tried pulling away, the Pelicans had an answer.
Golden State pushed the lead to 8, 41-33 early in the second, and things looked bleak (especially considering Curry was on the bench covered in towels). Alvin Gentry called time. A quick 6-0 run cut the lead to 2, 41-39. Two free throws a few minutes later from Gordon tied the game at 41. Curry re-entered and the game continued its nip-and-tuck nature.
The Pelicans held a slim 1-point lead at halftime, but you could see where the cracks were starting to show. You didn't have to look far -- 20 of 37 from the field, 7 of 14 from downtown. If the Warriors were making their free throws (17 of 26), they'd be in the lead. Rebounding (Pels rebounded more than 1/3 of their misses, converting 11 points off those) played a huge part in keeping New Orleans in the game.
Well, it was fun through the first 24 minutes because when the second half started, Steph decided to remind everyone he's the MVP (not like Pels fans needed any reminding).
Also, I’m worn out on Steph, but you can’t take anything away. Jrue Holiday, even hurt, is a top-flight defender. Toast.— Hardwood Paroxysm (@HPbasketball) November 1, 2015
And so the game went. What was once a 64-65 affair turned into a 105-91 blowout. Curry outscored the Pelicans 28-26 in the third quarter alone. Despite a valiant effort (the Pelicans cut it to 9 points after Davis was fouled shooting a right corner 3. He made all 3 free throws), that was the game. That's basically how you can sum the game up: it was close until Stephen Curry decided it shouldn't be anymore.
- Let's begin with the most obvious game note: Stephen Curry is ridonculous. 53 points (on just 27 shots), 9 assists, 4 steals and just 2 turnovers. How the hell do you stop that guy? Even our best wing defender, Jrue, was no match for him. He was hitting pullups left and right. One time, the team played really great defense for like 16 seconds. Davis switched onto Curry with time winding down and you know what Curry did? He just pulled up for a high-arcing 27-feet that barely missed ADs hands. Swish, deficit up to 14.
- People will look at the box score, they'll see that AD had 26 (on 17 shots), 15 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 blocks and 3 turnovers and think "AD had a great game!". Don't be fooled. Through the standards set by AD, that was a bad game. His first three games have underscored just how important Tyreke and Jrue have been to his development. It's been said time and time again how Tyreke/Jrue got AD a LOT of open shots (and they don't get as much credit as they deserve). I hope now, with AD shooting just 45.5% near the rim through 3 games, people will understand how important Tyreke and Jrue will be going forward.
When does it become not blasphemous to start the conversation about Steph being the most uncoverable player ever?— Yaya Dubin (@JADubin5) November 1, 2015
- Speaking of Holiday, Jrue himself had a great game with 22 points (on 19 shots), 6 assists (4 turnovers). The Pelicans looked more in control whenever he was on the court. 14 of his 19 shots were either at the rim or from behind the three-point line, and most of them were good shots (except for 1 or 2 ill-advised 3-point attempts). But the biggest thing about Jrue tonight is this: Jrue played 27 minutes. In his post-game interview, Alvin Gentry addressed this. Jrue was cleared for 25 minutes and he played him a little bit more than that. We're only 4 days into the new season and Jrue's minutes restriction has grown exponentially from 10 minutes at the start of the preseason, to 15-minutes towards the latter part of the preseason, to 20-minutes against Portland and now to 25-minutes against Golden State. To be perfectly honest, I'm not all that concerned (yet). Our games early in the season are well-spaced (the next game is not until November 3 against Orlando), we're dealing with a LOT of injuries and it's not like we have a lot of choice of substitutes for Jrue. Douglas played well but you can't expect him to score 17 points each game and play 22 decent minutes. Norris Cole & Tyreke Evans will be be out for another 4 weeks (at the earliest) and who knows when Quincy Pondexter's going to be available. I'd be perfectly fine with Jrue getting 20 to 25 minutes now and then split the rest of the minutes between Ish & Douglas. I think the most important thing for me right now is that: Jrue doesn't breach the 30-minute mark at any point this year & he doesn't play in any back-to-back this year. I do, however, hope that Jrue's sudden increase in minutes isn't tied to the rash of injuries but rather an improvement in how his body has responded. Otherwise, that would be a step back for the Pels organization as a whole.
- Ryan Anderson looks great. He's moving well, he looks as healthy as I've seen him in a Pelicans uniform and he's been aggressive. 19 points (on 16 shots) today and his play so far has probably been the lone bright spot through 3 games. The Warriors were content on switching all ball screens involving Anderson and a small guard (either with Ish, Douglas or Holiday) and Anderson kept punishing them in the paint. When Anderson is limited to spot-ups, post-ups against mismatches and the occasional pump fake-to-spin drives, he's great. Those mid-to-high postups though? Less of that please. Move the ball, set a brush screen then re-screen again. Something. That one-legged fadeaway, as beautiful they are to look at, is not an efficient use of a possession.
- 111, 112 and 134. That's how many points the Pelicans have given up in their first 3 games. Granted, two of them were against one of the (if not the) best offensive team in the league. The defense has a long way to go. Closeouts look more like scrambles, confusion still reigns on most ball screen actions and they're still allowing a lot of easy baskets in transition. I think part of that is adjusting to a new system: habits can't be changed that quickly, injuries are still a thing for the Pels and the change in philosophy is big. They're still not the team Gentry wants them to be - they aren't this explosive offensive team and good defensive team that plays fast. But because the team isn't playing well on offense (for one reason or another), their defense is suffering. It sounds cliche but it's true: defense and offense are two interacting, not separate, parts of the game. You play better offensively when you can get stops and vice versa. Gentry's offense was lauded so much so that he could call a play to generate a good look for a garbage can (or something like that). Granted, it's only been 3 games, but I think our offense being sputtery, and playing GSW twice, is the biggest reason why our defense has looked awful. Erman has a lot of work to do to get this to where the team wants it to be (at least top-10, possibly top-3).
- The Davis-Anderson-Holiday lineup has played 25 minutes through 2 games. Last season, that lineup played only 461 minutes (in 38 games) and had an offensive rating of 117.1 and a defensive rating of 106.0. The season prior to the last, that 3-man lineup played 266 minutes in 15 games. In total, in the past two seasons (not including this one), that trio has played only 727 minutes in 53 games (13 minutes per game). Meanwhile, the Curry-Green-Thompson trio played 1737 in 73 games last season ALONE. What am I saying? Any bit of continuity the Pelicans can get, after making it the emphasis of our offseason, is gold. Playing Davis and Jrue a lot together will help (47 minutes through 2 games). Playing Anderson and Davis a lot together will help (67 minutes through 3 games). Ditto for Anderson and Jrue (27 minutes). And yes, I'm looking for anything to be happy about after an awful 0-3 start. It's still early, the team could very well win 50+ games by season's end and we'd forget about the dismal opening week record.