The Golden State Warriors began a four-game road trip on Sunday in the Crescent City with a matchup against the New Orleans Pelicans. Both teams came into this game short-handed as the Warriors added D’Angelo Russell to their already lengthy injury list with a right thumb sprain. The Pelicans, meanwhile, were without Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball, and Josh Hart.
While there wasn’t much offense to be had (at times it felt like a bit of a rock fight), the Warriors battled throughout the whole game, not throwing in the towel even after falling behind by as many as 17 points. But once again, another inspired effort put forth by this undermanned Warriors team was all for naught as they lost to the Pelicans, 108-100. The loss left the Warriors’ record at 2-12 at this early point in the 2019-20 regular season.
Dubs defensive development continues
Many of the defensive improvements that the Warriors displayed against the Boston Celtics on Friday night were still present in the game against the Pelicans, holding team that averages around 116 points per game to just 108 on Sunday night.
Just like they did against the Celtics, the Warriors played solid defense, particularly in the pick-and-roll situations they frequently found themselves having to defend. Save for the occasional lapse, players like Willie Cauley-Stein and Marquese Chriss did a good job contesting shots without fouling while Omari Spellman once again was a solid defender coming off the bench.
Also, because I couldn’t find a good place to put this, here’s Chriss throwing down an absolutely vicious, rim-rattling dunk.
Marquese just caught a body pic.twitter.com/7mMbH0axIV— Warriors on NBCS (@NBCSWarriors) November 18, 2019
The Warriors even did limited the damage Jrue Holiday, probably the most talented Pelicans player on the court on Sunday night, could do. Holiday scored 22 points but they were a very workmanlike and inefficient 22 points as he needed 23 shots to get them as the Warriors did a good job containing a good player in Holiday.
At the very least, one could still see that defensive improvement in the loss to the Pelicans, that the strides the team made in Friday night’s game against the Celtics were real. As the team (hopefully, mercifully) starts to get healthy and players they expected to be on the roster start to return to action, that trend of defensive improvement will continue.
Pelicans’ three-point shooting wins them game
But where this game was won and lost was at the three-point line. The Pelicans were dominant from long distance while the Warriors struggled to make anything from long range. The Pelicans shot 39.1% from three-point land in Sunday night’s game, as they had 18 makes from beyond the arc, compared to the 7 made three-point shots the Warriors had. That’s a 33-point disparity when it comes to three-point shooting and it’s what doomed the Warriors in this matchup. Whether it was the home team finding the weak spot in the Warriors’ defensive game plan or just a good shooting performance from one of the best three-point shooting teams in the league this season, the Pelicans ability to make three-point shots was the thing that really gave them this win.
Leading the way from three-point range for the Pelicans was, not surprisingly, JJ Redick. The prolific three-point shooter went 6/11 from long distance on his way to scoring a team-high 26 points in the win. Also getting in on the act was rookie Nickeil Alexander-Walker. The rookie Alexander-Walker scored 19 points and shot from three-point range while coming off the bench for the Pelicans. Another Pelicans rookie, Nicolo Melli, went 5/7 from three-point range as part of his 15-point night.
The Warriors, meanwhile, had trouble making anything from long distance. The struggles of Jordan Poole continued in New Orleans as he didn’t score a single point, going 0/3 from three-point range. I talked about Poole’s play and the way in which his rookie campaign has not gotten off to an ideal start after the Celtics loss, so I won’t belabor it here. Alec Burks also didn’t make a three-point shot against the Pelicans, going 0/4 from beyond the arc and scoring just 8 points after being inserted into the starting lineup for the injured Russell.
Perhaps the greatest sign that this is a different (and strange) Warriors season—they are getting dominated by teams from three-point range. The Warriors, the team that really helped usher in the three-point revolution in basketball, is getting bested by teams from beyond the arc. These are truly peculiar times (and, certainly, has to do with a couple of the players who aren’t on the roster due to injury).
Paschall and Bowman lone offensive bright spots for Warriors
The one Warrior player who did not struggle offensively was rookie Eric Paschall. Paschall, who really might be becoming a dark-horse Rookie of the Year candidate, scored a game-high 30 points in the loss while shooting 2/4 from three-point range. It was the third-straight game in which Paschall has scored in double figures and the second time this season he’s scored 30+ points.
The prospect of Paschall eventually lining up with Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson and Draymond Green should give all dispirited and dejected members of Dub Nation some hope during this frustrating season through which we’re making our way.
The Warriors got an offensive boost from another rookie—Ky Bowman. Pressed into more minutes because of the injury to Russell, Bowman scored 19 points while going 3/7 from three-point range. Those three makes from long distance were a career-high for the young point guard. Bowman also finished the night with 4 assists and 1 steal.
I know that invoking his name brings up bad memories of the 2019 NBA Finals, but I see a little Fred VanVleet in Bowman, a slightly-undersized-but-still-tough point guard who can come off the bench and either provide an energy boost or be a part of a second unit while the starting point guard (i.e. Stephen Curry) gets some rest.