Before the start of the night, the Pelicans had largely been competitive from start to finish in each of their first three defeats and the opponents were considered of playoff-caliber quality. The Warriors, on the other hand, were coming off a 120-92 loss yesterday that saw them trailing by 33 points at halftime to the OKC Thunder, a team not predicted to challenge for the playoffs. So, of course, the Warriors came out as the aggressors from the tip and set the tone early.
Golden State narrowed their sights on Jahlil Okafor first, who had replaced Derrick Favors in the starting lineup after Alvin Gentry announced in pregame that his starting center would sit due to knee soreness. On Okafor’s first offensive touch, the Warriors double-teamed him that led to a travel, this after Draymond Green had burned past Jah from the perimeter off the dribble for an easy two. Okafor went on to make several more errors within the first five minutes of the game which resulted in Gentry eventually deciding to give Jaxson Hayes not one but two looks in the first half after Nicolo Melli failed to impress. The inexperienced rookie make his share of mistakes, but at least he rewarded the head coach’s decision with a block of Stephen Curry right at the start of the second quarter and then a couple of nice finishes before halftime.
Okafor was far from the only detractor though. JJ Redick is still trying to hit a jump shot inside the Smoothie King Center. He missed nine of his first ten looks and added a couple of senseless turnovers too. Lonzo Ball didn’t fare much better. He wasn’t able to set up teammates for easy looks and by the time his shot started to drop, New Orleans found themselves down by almost 20 points. Brandon Ingram, who entered the contest as hot as anyone in the league, suddenly watched a few of his first shot attempts cruelly roll out of the cylinder.
When you add it all up, the Pelicans laid an egg in front of decent Monday night crowd, and that needs to be eliminated.
Gentry: The most disturbing thing to me is we were never in the game. You can look at the score, but we were never in it. That’s disturbing, especially at home... If we say won’t bow down, we can’t do what we just did.— Andrew Lopez (@_Andrew_Lopez) October 29, 2019
Here’s the important takeaway though: it was probably bound to happen. They’re a young, inexperienced group who was missing three of their starters. Although both teams were in search of their first win of the season, Golden State rose to the challenge. New Orleans did not. Also, this Pelicans roster is still very much in training camp mode when it comes to learning Jeff Bzdelik’s defensive concepts. As fellow writer David Grubb correctly pointed out to me, it took the Houston Rockets a few months or so at the start of last season to find their groove.
Brandon Ingram finished 27 points, 10 rebounds, six assists and four more three-pointers (he now has 14 through four games), but my favorite thing was to watch him not quit after a rough start and still playing hard on both ends of the floor in garbage time. He nearly came away with a steal of Steph Curry near the half court line towards the start of the 4th quarter — something you don’t expect to see when your team is getting waxed.
Jaxson Hayes, in his first action of the season, scored 19 points and grabbed three rebounds and the crowd loved him. The athleticism and energy are there, but it’s apparent he still has to learn a lot of concepts in addition to getting stronger. Nickeil Alexander-Walker also enjoyed his best game as a rookie, totaling 15 points and nine assists. Kenrich Williams finished with 16 points, six rebounds and three triples.
Golden State was led by Curry’s 26 points and 11 assists. D’Angelo Russell tallied 24 points, eight rebounds and seven assists, and Draymond Green finished with a triple-double line of 16 points, 17 rebounds and 10 assists. Damion Lee added 23 points and 11 rebounds off the Warriors’ bench.
Look, I’m not in the excuse business. I volunteer a lot of my time to cover this team and no one wants to sit through bad basketball games, but I am certain of one thing: it’s not time to panic. The rebuilt front office and exciting talent added in the offseason are still with the franchise, and the players most definitely remain upbeat.
“Not at all,” said Ingram to postgame media. “We have enough guys in here where we feel like we can win basketball games. I think we just got down a little bit when we weren’t making shots. It affected our energy a little bit. We have the guys in this room that we need so we won’t get discouraged at all.”
The Pelicans suffered a hiccup tonight. They’ll probably have a few more down the road too. The defense has been bad all season, but tonight’s poor offensive showing led to the disproportionate score and stinging loss.
Keep the faith.