Ah, yes. That’s more like it.
After a bumbling misstep on Opening Night at home after raising their fifth banner, the Golden State Warriors decided to take care of business in Louisiana. The champ’s 128-120 victory over the New Orleans Pelicans last night provided entertaining theater. The Dub’s had their hands full with the Pelicans two All-NBA monster big men, Demarcus Cousins and Anthony Davis. Fortunately, the Warriors had the “strength in numbers” to outlast those two stubborn Olympians and erase a 17 point first half deficit. Here are five observations from this early season contest:
KD loses shoe; throws block party
“The Servant” played with some serious emotion last night. After having suffered an embarrassing collapse on Ring Night against the Houston Rockets which ended on his game winner being waved off, KD played with burning intensity against New Orleans. In a contest featuring two other versatile giants in Demarcus Cousins and Anthony Davis, KD wanted to make a statement about his game.
At first he was a bit too wired. He forced bad passes to cutting teammates that turned into turnovers, which fueled a Pellies first quarter explosion. He even was called for a pair of offensive fouls for bulling his way through All-NBA defender Anthony Davis. He was stripped clean by Davis on one dunk attempt, and then embarrassingly botched another try. The Dub’s quickly found themselves down 17 as KD fought to make any sort of game changing play.
Once Durant started controlling that hyper energy, however, he became a terrifying force of will on both ends of the floor. In the second quarter, he became a man possessed. First he made a layup in traffic and his shoe was knocked off. He scrambled off of the made basket to get back on defense with one giant, white sock exposed. Then this happened:
Not up in here! (NBCSBA, ESPN) pic.twitter.com/Uiae7dG1zI— GoldenStateWarriors (@warriors) October 21, 2017
GET THAT SHOT OUT OF HERE! The man only had one shoe on people! He would finish with a career high seven blocks.
The Pelicans were building a shell around the paint early on, mugging cutters and mucking up the routes of off ball movement. Once KD saw the motion offensive scheme was flagging under the intense defensive pressure, he took matters into his own hands. He constantly attacked, whether in transition or in the half court. He forced the issue in order to get to the rim, looking to either get to the foul line or finish strong (even though he was only awarded one free throw the WHOLE NIGHT).
It was clear he was ballin’ when he calmly buried this three at the buzzer to end the first half with 17 points, cutting the deficit to three.
.@KDTrey5 ending the first half in style on @NBCSAuthentic & @espn pic.twitter.com/PGpSJGPuAI— GoldenStateWarriors (@warriors) October 21, 2017
He would finish with 22 points and ten rebounds along with five annoying turnovers. That’s better than the nine he had Opening Night, I suppose. At any rate, KD really took the pressure off of his teammates with his defensive awareness and offensive gumption. Nights like these support the “this is KD’s team” foolishness that the talking heads on sports shows love to scream.
Klay Thompson kills Pellies dreams
When the Warriors came back from their double-digit hole and took control in New Orleans (where have I heard that before?), the Pelicans refused to die. They had several runs attempting to sneak back in, and Klay Thompson slammed the door on their fingers every time.
Swat, a slam and a raising of the roof ... We see you @KlayThompson!!! (@NBCSAuthentic, ESPN) pic.twitter.com/KsuskcBWuD— GoldenStateWarriors (@warriors) October 21, 2017
Wait, was Klay awkwardly doing the Warriors “Raise The Roof” bench celebration ? The one they usually bust out after mega dunks from JaVale McGee, Andre Iguodala, or KD? Yup! The Android was TRULY feeling it. He finished with 31 points on 12 of 19 shooting (7 of 12 from downtown). He even orchestrated a pick and roll with the shot clock winding down late in the 4th, calmly dribbling into a small window of space to drill a contested 17 footer. The ghost of Chris Mullin?!
''I felt like I was in the zone,'' Thompson said. ''If I went out there and shot some more jumpers, I'd probably make some more. I was just getting great looks tonight.''
Please don’t take for granted how this superstar routinely snuffs out the hopes of Dub Nation’s enemies with timely, murderous buckets. Whatever happened to Klay starting seasons off slow?
Pelicans’ Twin Towers are a beautiful tandem
Our bigs “held” Cousins to 35 points, 15 rebounds, 4 assists, and 4 steals. We “limited” Davis to 35 points, 17 rebounds, and 5 assists. I don’t recall seeing any other men their size being so fluid transitioning into the various facets of the game. They spotted up from the arc, protected the rim, drew charges, ran the break, made smart passes, pretty much everything but...win.
.@boogiecousins with the steal and one! #Pelicans #DoItBig pic.twitter.com/XEvHGZa9sw— New Orleans Pelicans (@PelicansNBA) October 21, 2017
AD: Block, Steal and Bucket! #DoItBig pic.twitter.com/VvNByKRReT— New Orleans Pelicans (@PelicansNBA) October 21, 2017
Dubs big men show grit
There’s been plenty of off-season speculation here at GSoM about Golden State’s big man rotation handling low post threats. Well, in our first real test, the numbers don’t look too great. However, Cousins and Davis never really could keep control of the game despite their gaudy stats.
Draymond and Cousins had a skirmish in the second quarter which featured both of them yapping and getting physical with each other. Draymond was assessed a technical, but the exchange seemed to distract Cousins more than anything.
Cousins began playing more recklessly, repeatedly dribbling into crowds and losing the ball, tallying up six costly turnovers.
The Dubs big men battled discouragement and fought bravely until they gradually wore down the two big fellas in the final quarter. Basically, Cousins and Davis put on a New Age Big Man exhibition, BUT they were forced to work for everything. When crunch time rolled around, our bigs rugged effort wore them down and sapped their energy.
The fourth quarter showed the Warriors collective low post toughness. Former Pelican David West drew Cousin’s 4th foul on a charge to break up his rhythm. As the game waned, an exhausted Cousins cartoonishly barreled his way against West and Draymond’s textbook defensive footwork for no reward.
Kevin Durant even switched onto Cousins once to emphatically tie him up at the point of attack and force a jump ball. The final nail in the coffin came when Zaza Pachulia (!) secured a major offensive rebound over the Pelicans Twin Towers in the final two minutes to seal the game.
Kerr is still experimenting with the bigs rotation, platooning Draymond, Pachulia, West, JaVale McGee, and Jordan Bell in and out. I’m sure he’ll keep on tweaking the rotation based on the matchups night to night. Tonight saw a winning effort from this group despite the video game numbers put up by Cousins and Davis.
The Pelicans want to run and gun?
If Wilt Chamberlain were alive today, he would probably be aghast at the heavy reliance of deep shots that permeates the game. EVERYBODY is shooting threes. As a Warriors fan, I have to chuckle whenever I see Cousins and Davis standing in the corners, setting up for treys. Two giant monsters playing like shooting guards! That’s cute.
Davis was 3 of 4 from downtown and Cousins was 3 of 8. That’s not bad. Former Warriors assistant and current Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry is clearly counting on the funkiness of that offensive style to eventually cause problems for the champs. But is that going to be enough to out shoot arguably the greatest offense in NBA history in a playoff series? Hell no. I’d much rather see those big fellas way out around the arc rather than attacking the paint and getting the smaller Dubs in foul trouble.
First Win Of The Season
Finally, we can taste victory again. The Warriors need to put this game in the rear view mirror as soon as possible as they are headed to Memphis for the second night of a back to back. The Grizzlies are looking mighty frisky this season and have had the last two days off. They will take any opportunity to abuse the Warriors, so the champs better fight through any fatigue if they want to get a W.
Who was the Warrior Wonder vs the Pelicans?
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