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Too much Stephen Curry as Pelicans valiant effort falls short against Warriors, 116-106

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Curry sets a new NBA three-point record in a single game, making 13 of 17 from beyond the arc.

NBA: New Orleans Pelicans at Golden State Warriors Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

The New Orleans Pelicans lost to the Golden State Warriors, 116-106. Similar to the teams’ first meeting of the season, the Pelicans surprisingly held a 1-point advantage in the third quarter, but the Warriors better-suited roster for small ball did enough down the stretch to keep New Orleans winless on the season.

Predictably, Stephen Curry went nuts, wanting nothing more than to put his putrid shooting performance against the Lakers far in the rear view mirror. Boy did he ever! In the first half, he scored 23 points and knocked down 6 three-pointers, including this circus shot.

To those unfamiliar with many of his exploits, Steph may have looked out of control and forced a bad shot. However, this is what he does, especially when properly motivated. (Thanks again, Luke Walton.) Opponents who give him a sliver of space on his home floor often witness more shots dropping than missing, regardless of the difficulty level.

Following halftime, he didn’t let off the gas pedal as he would go on to finish the game with 46 points and a new NBA record of 13 made three-pointers in a game. #SlowClap

What can anyone do? Not a whole hell of a lot when it comes to perhaps the best shooter that has ever lived.

Yet, despite the ridiculousness that is Steph, the Pelicans were competitive for the vast majority of this one. In the second quarter, the Warriors increased their lead to 21 points, threatening to blow out New Orleans before halftime, but a 9-2 run staved off certain embarrassment.

In the first matchup less than two weeks ago, Dante Cunningham provided a heck of a nice boost and set season highs in points (15), rebounds (8), threes (3) and blocks (2). His contributions were overwhelmingly positive and his energy infectious, and I’m sure the coaching staff remembered.

Tonight, however, Cunningham had the opposite desired effect and his ghastly -24 +/- didn’t lie. In 26 minutes of play, he tallied just 1 rebound and 0 steals or blocks. He knocked down a couple of threes, but when the Pelicans went small with he or Terrence Jones or the two together in the front court (gasp), the Warriors took advantage.

The reason I bring this up is because when Omer Asik was on the floor, the Pelicans dominated — yes, dominated — the Curry-led Warriors. In 14 minutes, Asik posted a +17 +/-. Hell, even when Ajinca was on the floor for 6 minutes, the Pelicans deficit did not go spiraling out of control. Big ball was clicking, but the coaching staff went away from it altogether after Asik sat down for his rest in the third quarter.

Look, it’s unlikely that Omer would have been some savior in the fourth, but Alvin Gentry needed to at least try that route. Attempting to beat a top notch small ball lineup with one largely comprised of rotation-caliber reserves is going to fail every single time, especially if their performances up until the final stretch have not been of the good variety.

In his post-game comments, Gentry pointed to turnovers and a lack of making plays down the stretch. He is not wrong in making that assessment, but I’m puzzled why he expected anything differently to occur. Without Jrue Holiday and Tyreke Evans, the Pelicans ability to matchup consistently well with small-ball lineups does not exist at the moment. And with how this game was trending, I would have preferred the coaching staff use size to attempt to dictate a change from what I feel was an inevitable losing strategy.

There is no doubt the Warriors would have tried to attack Asik in pick and rolls, regardless of whether he was covering Draymond Green or Andre Iguodala, but the attempt needed to be made. Both of these Warriors have been dismal from long range early this season so their only option would have been to drive and kick. With the Warriors prone to turnovers and the Pelicans defense much improved, closing the game with the original starters seemed like the better gamble.

Game Notes

  • Anthony Davis bounced back from several mild games by his standards to score 33 points (on 18 shots) and grab 13 rebounds. He had 15 points in the first half when no other Pelican totaled more than 6. Thus, it made it easy for the Warriors to collapse around him throughout the game, but they were not always successful in stopping the Brow.
  • Omer Asik completely dominated his matchup with Zaza Pachulia and finished with 8 points and 6 rebounds in just 14 minutes of action. As I said earlier, I don’t know why Gentry didn’t try going to that well more often. The Warriors have been exploited by teams going big against them in the past, and the Pelicans could have used Asik’s screen-setting ability to free another option on the wing instead of forcing the ball continually to AD who was harassed from all sides during the fourth quarter.
  • E’Twaun Moore finished with a solid line (15 points, 5 assists), but I think he’s capable of more if he develops a stronger attacking mindset. Granted he did leave the game very early in the first quarter due a neck issue so he deserves a pass.
  • Buddy Hield was typical Buddy again: 9 points on 4-10 from the floor and 1-5 from three-point territory. However, he did net 6 rebounds, tying him with Asik for second most on the night. Once he hones his jumper to in-game action — I refuse to believe it will never happen — he’s going to be a nice contributor across the board.

In all honesty, the Pelicans put forth a solid effort and could have easily packed it in during the second quarter, but they did not. That’s great, but I’m troubled with the fact that too many were happy with the result and felt it unnecessary to add any critiques. Things can always be done better, especially on an 0-7 team. Giving New Orleans a free pass simply because of the opponent and a more favorable than expected end result does nothing to propel the team further along in the Process. It’s all about improvement, whether the opponent is the Sixers or Warriors.