The 2015-2016 NBA season was born several hours ago. For Warriors fans (and the players themselves) this may be psychologically jarring. It's time to temporally compartmentalize the past 12 months. Time to shake off any goosebumps or jitters or reveries you found yourself in. The time to contemplate is over; the boys are back on the court.
And in a not-so-tightly-contested contest, the Warriors came out on top of the New Orleans Pelicans on Banner Raising Night, 111 - 95.
Take a seat, my friend. Let's talk Warriors.
First Quarter: 39 - 35
Draymond Green put the first points of 2016 season on the board for the Warriors with a wide-open three off a Stephen Curry assist. Curry still generates gravity that pulls his teammates' defenders off of him like few other superstars in the league.
Early on, Andrew Bopgut served in his usual role as offensive fulcrum. He operated face-up on Kendrick Perkins, dishing backdoor cuts for guards cutting after using Bogut to screen their men. Curry picked up his first points at 10:56 in the First off of a Bogut assist from this set.
On the Pelicans side, Coach Alvin Gentry came up with a redoubled effort to get Anthony Davis the orange early. Davis took the Pelicans' first three shots of the night; clanking the first midrange jumper then coming back and scoring on a turnaround in the post over Green, who naturally checked Davis all night. The Pelicans were boosted offensively, of course, by post scoring savant "Hakeem" Perkins (wait, what?). Perkins actually scored thrice in the First Quarter, on three post up attempts on Bogut.
The middle of the First Quarter can best be described as a hot serving of Curry. The reigning MVP was incendiary, exploding with several highlight plays en route to a career high 24 First Quarter points. R.I.P., Ish Smith.
Steph is lights out from the start! Scores 24 in the 1stQ - his career high for the 1st period - on 9/13 shooting pic.twitter.com/3PrPYlizl3
— NBA.com/Stats (@nbastats) October 28, 2015
Besides the biggest story? Well, those of you holding out for a Harrison Barnes role increase, sorry. Barnes didn't even get a touch for the first six minutes of the quarter. He finally forced the issue on a falling Ish Smith, leading to an awkwardly handled drive that ended with Barnes tripping and drawing a foul midway through the quarter.
Then, in a recurring theme that has apparently piggy backed onto this year's iteration of the Warriors, the Warriors became their own worst enemy. Winding down with two minutes left and the game firmly controlled (a handy 11 point lead with 2:30 left), the Warriors slowed it down. Barnes began posting up, again and again and again. Ish Smith and the Pelicans started driving on Festus Ezeli (in for Draymond Green out of a timeout) and finding success.
With a late-quarter surge, the Warriors clung to a mere four point lead, allowing 12 points in two and a half minutes.
Second Quarter: 59 - 49
It didn't take long for Eric Gordon to retake lost ground on the Warriors second unit that came out at the start of the Second Quarter. Gordon tied it at 39 up on a drive that saw Mo Speights prove to be every bit a weak rim protector as we all expect.
.@PelicansNBA tie it up at 39 thanks to a 19-7 run!
— Daniel Sallerson (@dsallerson) October 28, 2015
At the start of the quarter, Walton went with a Speights - Shaun Livingston - Klay Thompson -Leandro Barbosa - Andre Iguodala unit. Klay Thompson continued driving as he had in the First, even blowing by a recovering Anthony Davis early in the Second with a nice hesitation at the three point arc that made Davis freeze long enough for Thompson to scamper to the rim.
Klay's not athletic, nor is his handle tight or creative enough to be counted as anything more than average, but he astutely used the threat of his outside shooting to buy him time. That's a trick he could only develop after a few seasons of driving--we're seeing continued development in our aged 22-25 guys, a good sign for a franchise lusting for a dynasty.
Not bad for his first day on the job - Ish with the dish! https://t.co/PDqjrz7ayK
— New Orleans Pelicans (@PelicansNBA) October 28, 2015
It took 1.25 quarters for Speights to pick up his first charge of the season on an erratic Ish Smith drive. The Second Quarter started jarringly, with turnovers (resulting from good intentions to push the ball) and fouls abound. Dante Cunningham took the lead at 44 - 43 with seven minutes left in the Quarter. The Warriors kept committing TOs (9 in total before the 6:00 mark of the Second) and Barnes kept on missing (0 - 7 by the same time mark) as the Pelicans continued to take advantage of the Warriors with Draymond and Steph and Bogut on the bench.
Miscellaneous note: Anthony Davis needs to refocus on fundamentals. He gets happy feet before he takes an initial dribble. He was ticketed for traveling (specifically not establishing a pivot and shuffling the feet) twice in the First Half, and could've been whistled a handful more times.
At 6:54 Bogut subbed back into the game for Barbosa (3 TOs by that point), giving the Warriors their top 3 performers of the game back on the court (Curry - Green - Bogut) with the Warriors down 44 - 43. How much did that matter? The Warriors' lineup of Curry - Green - Bogut - Barnes - Livingston didn't allow the Pelicans to score for the next 4 minutes of game time, ripping off 12 straight points and regaining a cushiony 44 - 55 lead. The offense suddenly was fluid; the defense hawked shooters. Dray is the heartbeat but that wasn't supposed to mean the Warriors don't show a pulse until he's in the game.
Barnes showed the first glimpse of life, too, during this 12 point run. At 4:30 Barnes had a nice drive from the perimeter, finishing with a smooth up and under. Curry and Bogut have seemed to develop a chemistry reminiscent of Curry and Lee's offensive mindlink circa 2011. All game Curry and Bogut were finding each other making back door cuts seemingly out of the corners of their eyes. They have a mutual understanding of how the other will react off the ball.
And, oh yeah, Davis is still a superstar. He was largely inert in live action, hitting only 1 of 9 FGAs in the First Half. Like any struggling All-World talent not named Curry, though, he had ample opportunity from the line, hitting 4 of 9 from the stripe in the First Half. Gentry doubled down on the fact that the city of New Orleans belongs to Davis, and even allowed his career sub-80% FT shooting forward to shoot a technical foul resulting from illegal defense on the Warriors (he missed, but like Christmas gifts, it's the thought the counts).
The Warriors ended a sloppily played second act with a 59 - 49 lead, with Curry contributing 29 big ones into the pot. Aside from Green and Bogut, the top performer in white was Barnes, who despite poor shooting still rebounded well (8 TOT). Klay was merely adequate, and all substitutes were negatives in +/-, unsurprisingly. The starters built it, the subs razed it, the starters rebuilt it. A typical day at the office in the municipal city of Dub Nation.
Stephen Curry has 29 points, 4 3-pointers, 6 assists & 3 rebounds for GS half. Anthony Davis 6 points after missing 8 shots & 5 FTs for NO.
— Marc J. Spears (@SpearsNBAYahoo) October 28, 2015
Third Quarter: 94 - 75
This was the crucial quarter that changed the game. It wasn't so much the Warriors dropping the hammer, and more the simple inequity of talent and depth finally revealing itself.
Perkins finally showed why he is in the NBA (hint: it ain't the post moves) when he knocked Steph flat on his ass. Curry calmly hit two FTs; Klay showed his great timing on the ensuing Pelicans offensive possession, partially deflecting a fading Gordon shot in the key and pushing the ball up the floor. On another Curry / Bogut pick, Curry got all the way to the rim, finishing the play off with his sort-of-trademark Statue of Liberty layup he does that seems to stabilize the ball in his smaller palm, ballooning the lead up to 67-49.
Anthony Davis began functioning as a passer by pushing the ball and dishing it to wings and guards on the break, leading the Pelicans to within 12 in the next few minutes. Bogut had a nice active sequence, illegally screening out some defenders and spoon-feeding Barnes a wing jumper (Bogut's great ability: not getting called for functioning as a lead blocker on the hardwood), then altering a Gordon transition layup enough to make him miss. The Aussie has lost weight, and is looking more active than ever.
Stephen Curry has his first career season-opening 30-point game. His previous season-opening-high was 25 points on Oct. 27, 2010 vs. Houston
— GSWStats (@gswstats) October 28, 2015
On an egregious no-call on a Curry drive (copy and pasted more often than any other basketball phrase), Bogut, co-runner up for game MVP at that point, took a shot to the face that drew blood. Skin-deep wounds are always much preferred to anything related to ligaments or bones, of course. Bogut was later reported to have a laceration above his right eye, and would not return to action--perhaps due to his injury, perhaps because the game was out of reach by the time he returned from the lockerroom.
Warriors say center Andrew Bogut has a laceration in his right eye and he will get stitches. Return questionable.
— Marc J. Spears (@SpearsNBAYahoo) October 28, 2015
Ezeli, after a poor showing in the First Half, came in while Bogut licked his wounds and promptly cracked an egg on Davis' head, and followed that with another wide-open dunk off a good Klay Thompson dish.
On top of finishing off plays set up by other playmakers, Ezeli did have a few instances of improved defense over his First Half showing. At 4:30, on an island guarding a quicker Davis on the left block, he moved his feet and anticipated where Davis wanted to go with the ball, perhaps surprising Davis and forcing him into a poor shot off the low block that missed badly. Remember, Ezeli's seen Davis since the days they both prowled the paint in the S.E.C. back in college.
Shortly after Ezeli's insertion, Klay picked up his fourth foul on a fairly ridiculous offensive foul (a shoulder shrug, really), relegating him to the bench with 9 points on 3 / 5 shooting and a +11 (and only ONE 3PA) in 19 minutes of action. By then, though, the Warriors were doing that thing. Y'know, when they start doing that thing. Just... slowly, yet at a lightning pace, enforce their will upon the game.
It's apparent there's still a gap between the Warriors and this year's Pelicans. Despite taking away the Warriors' Mjolnir, the three pointer, the Warriors still just compressed the Pelicans. Yes, besides Curry, the Warriors were fairly 'meh' from downtown. Through three quarters, the Warriors only shot 34.8% (8 - 23) from three.
Furthermore, Leandro Barbosa may have had his worst game as a Warrior. Mistakes leading to turnovers and "WTF?" shot selection plagued the Blur all game long. He forced the issue so much you'd think he was the guy looking for $18 M next season. He was joined by Speights as the worst performers (perhaps with the 0:51 seconds of non-garbage time James Michael-McAdoo).
Also, Walton has more of a Southern twang than I expected.
Fourth Quarter: 111 - 95
Shaun Livingston and Andre Iguodala served as co-floor generals for the bench squad that also composed Speights, Barbosa, and Barnes, coming out of the Third Quarter break. Livingston continued his quiet and extremely effective night with a nice opening defensive possession. He and Barnes appeared to softly double the perimeter, leaving Alexis Ajinca a quick rotation away on the block. Barnes switched back onto Ajinca when the guard dumped it to the open Pelican. When Livingston's man ran through the key to clear the side for Ajinca versus Barnes, Livingston pounced with a quick double to force the ball out.
Speights, also, proved he can play smart ball, dishing a beautiful pass to Iguodala on a perfectly executed blitzing fastbreak.
Elsewhere, bigger-than-basketball bravery and fight was addressed:
As the Fourth Quarter wore on, the Warriors slowly lost steam. Curry clocked back into the game with 7:30 left in the Fourth, with Anthony Davis slowly warming up from the worst shooting performance of his career and the Warriors missing seven FGAs in a row.
Ish Smith is leading the Pelicans in points (17) and assists (9). He joined the team on Monday (!) after being waived by the Wizards.
— Alex Kennedy (@AlexKennedyNBA) October 28, 2015
Ezeli continued an impressive Second Half, displaying good hands on both sides of the ball, deflecting bullet passes by the Pelicans and catching lightning-quick Livingston dump offs under the rim. Barnes even fed Ezeli the ball for the slam off of a Barnes designated post-up.
(An interesting idea: if Barnes really does have a late-blooming court vision in storage he's ready to unveil in his contract year, perhaps he could someday replace Bogut's playmaking if Ezeli is to be the replacement at the 5. Ezeli displayed tonight the DeAndre Jordan package of "dunks and clean-up" that most teams are more than happy with from the 5. I don't expect Barnes to break out in that way, nor am I ready to declare Ezeli's performance consistent enough to be a long-term starting solution. Just a thought.)
Solid night from the @warriors centers on opening night-- Bogut w/ 12-5-5 & 2blk, Ezeli has 13 & 4. GSW up 104-89, 4thQ on TNT.
— NBA (@NBA) October 28, 2015
With two minutes left and a 15 point lead, Draymond made a rookie mistake. As the man at the top of the key when the shot went up, instead of returning on defense he went for a free rebound, resulting in an easy Pelicans transition hoop. Early season mental rust was evident, even in an overall dominant performance.
The starters were subbed out a moment later and the substitutes rode the lead out for the final minute and change.
Dominant performance by the top guns. Curry, Livingston, Green, and Bogut had great showings. Iguodala, Barnes, and Ezeli had good showings. Everyone else needs work.
The biggest surprise? Jason Thompson has been supplanted by James Michael McAdoo in the rotation. Sheesh.
Peering into the enemy's trench, Anthony Davis had a pretty bad showing a few months after the Warriors last saw him in Smoothie King Center. Check out the box score for both sides here, at your discretion.
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