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Hot start, slow finish: Pelicans fall 128-120 in home opener to the World Champion Warriors

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A moral victory?

NBA: Golden State Warriors at New Orleans Pelicans Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Despite another pair of magnificent performances from Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins, along with a perfect combined shooting first half by Jordan Crawford and Ian Clark, the Golden State Warriors overcame a 15-point deficit to upend the Pelicans in the second half, 128-120.

Cousins entered warm-ups with his hoodie on, Jrue Holiday scored the Pelicans’ first basket and New Orleans started the game on a 17-6 run prior to an Alvin Gentry timeout — all seemed well. Ian Clark netted two critical threes in the first quarter against his former team and Davis ended the opening period with a buzzer-beating three of his own. With that, the Pelicans entered the second quarter with a surprising 39-26 lead.

Things got even better.

Crawford channeled “Instant Grits,” hitting a three-point jumper that he took from the tip of the Pelicans’ half court logo.

Draymond Green received a technical foul shortly past this point, after an altercation with Cousins. The game intensified, but unfortunately, in Golden State’s favor. A 15-point lead New Orleans had built, quickly diminished due to mental lapses and some fatigue. At halftime, the Pelicans were only ahead 64-61.

Just touching on how crucial the bench performance was to the success in the first half, Clark and Crawford combined for 19 points on 7-of-7 shooting from the field, 5-of-5 from three-point territory.

To open the second half, Klay Thompson immediately hit a three, evening the score. After two more baskets by the Warriors, Alvin Gentry was forced to call a quick timeout. New Orleans had come out of the break with seemingly no energy and before you knew it, a 3-point halftime lead turned into an 11-point deficit in less than four minutes.

However, the Warriors run was longer and even more impressive. From the technical foul given to Draymond Green, Golden State went on a 28-7 run. The Pelicans head coach blamed it on a bad stretch of basketball — something you can’t do against the World Champions.

“We had a couple of bad possessions and when you have bad possessions against this team it usually turns into a wide open shot or a layup,” said Gentry. “We have to do a better job in that area. You just can’t have bad possessions this team.”

During the early portion of the fourth quarter, the Warriors’ defense started to suffocate the offensive game plan of Pelicans. Cousins began to see more pressure on the perimeter, and both Davis and Cousins found themselves continuously hassled in the post. Several times, Golden State pushed their lead to 13 points, but just when many assumed the game was out of reach, New Orleans clawed their way back. At one point, the Pelicans had reduced the deficit to just five, but they were unable to get over the hump.

“We put ourselves in an opportunity were we had a couple of really good looks that could have cut it to a one possession game and we just didn’t get them in,” said Gentry.

Although New Orleans fell to 0-2 on the season, not all losses are created equal. In postgame comments, everyone in the locker room noted the improvement from the loss to the Memphis Grizzlies, and the team felt tonight’s effort would have resulted in a win against the vast majority of the NBA.

Up next, the Pelicans travel out West for a three-game road trip, with a date against rookie Lonzo Ball and the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday evening.

Geaux Pels!