Harrison Barnes scored 22 points and 11 Warriors scored as the Golden State Warriors defeated the New Orleans Pelicans 112-96. In defeat, Norris Cole led the Pelicans in scoring, finishing with 16 points and adding five rebounds and four assists. With the loss, the Pelicans fall to two games behind the Oklahoma City Thunder for the eighth and final spot in the Western Conference playoff race.
This was tough. No Anthony Davis, Omer Asik and Tyreke Evans being a game-time decision, already facing the uphill climb of defeating the Golden State Warriors, doing it with one player playing hurt, your best player and your best defensive player not playing? Slim to none. I can’t say I’m surprised at the final score. The best team in the league took advantage of an injured, hampered team on their home floor.
It didn’t even start that way either, the Pelicans hung tough with Golden State in the first quarter, trailing just 30-26 after one. Quincy Pondexter hit a couple easy looks from beyond the arc and Alexis Ajinca got some easy looks at the rim. Monty Williams went with nine guys in the first, with Dante Cunningham playing the entire quarter.
The second quarter was where you saw the Pelicans begin to fall off the rails. Offensively, they couldn’t find good shots on the floor, leaving most of their shot attempts contested. As a result, the Pelicans shot just 27% from the floor. Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston created three players on the floor capable of contesting shots and altering passes.
The defense fell apart in the third quarter and as a result, the Pelicans surrendered 33 points in the third. Stephen Curry went nuts, scoring 12 points and dished out six assists. Harrison Barnes scored eight points, getting a couple good baskets, including an impressive finish at the rim. Other than Barnes and Curry, the Warriors got everyone involved, closing the game out. The fourth didn’t matter because of the damage the Warriors did in the third.
There were some positives. I liked how Alexis Ajinca and Jeff Withey played tonight. Ajincia, who got the start, finished with 15 points and eight rebounds. He has this thing about him where there are games where he looks unstoppable and others where he looks out of shape. Against the Warriors it was a weird balance of both. He had some moments -albeit, mostly against the second unit - where he looked tough to stop. He also had some moments where if he didn't get the basket on the first look, it was rough, as he would reposition himself, often for a miss.
As for Withey, I like him, but I know what he is. He's a fine fourth or fifth big man. 14 points, eight rebounds and three assists. The skill is there. I actually like that he can pass a bit, too. Still, there are moments where he looks so stiff and when opposing post players initiate with him, he can get a bit foul prone. Still, I like him, I think there's a spot for him next year and games like this offer the hope that maybe, if someone gets a bit too crazy with Ajinca in free agency, that that backup spot isn't too bare.
If there’s one thing I could give the Pelicans this upcoming offseason, it’s someone who can defend on the perimeter. Jrue Holiday isn’t there and he’s pretty good defensively, but man, the Pelicans need someone opposite of him who can defend wings. I would love if they could somehow make space to grab a Khris Middleton or Danny Green this offseason. This team has a ceiling if they can’t fix that area.
I like Dante Cunningham, but I just don’t know how to value him as a pending free agent and if he fits the roster moving forward. Ryan Anderson returns and upgrades that spot. To me, I want someone who can provide more of an offensive punch, as well as be capable to defend wings. Against Golden State, he had no chance defending Draymond Green and it got ugly when he was switched onto a wing.
An unfair thing - Golden State’s bench is everything I want in a bench. Eliminate Lee and Iguodala, they have this combination of guys who are athletic, could play a couple positions on the floor and could a basket or two in one area. Not to mention, you have them in abundance and none are monster defensive liabilities outside of Barbosa. That’s what I want for New Orleans’ bench - get a ton of interesting guys who can mix it up on both sides of the floor. A bit too one-sided at the moment. It isn’t a one offseason thing, but it is something i would like to see them transition to.
Cole wasn’t good, but he wasn’t terrible, either. Offensively, he got his, finishing with 13 points and dishing out four assists. Defensively, he lost Stephen Curry a couple times, which led to some easy looks. Curry, who was off tonight, missed them, but if he didn’t, it would’ve been ugly for Cole. He’s fine in spurts, but I think you want a better defensive presence next to him.
That’s all I got. Pelicans will have a day off before gearing it back up for a Sunday game against the Clippers - another playoff team. Anthony Davis should be back hopefully and he’s one of the best players in the league. Hopefully they can fare better than they did in this one.