#715 Golden State Warriorsvs.#716 New Orleans Pelicans
Written by Matt Severance
When/Where: Friday, 9:30 p.m. ET, Smoothie King Center, New Orleans
Spread: Warriors -9.5; total: 216
Could the Golden State Warriors’ super team actually start 0-2? That what is facing the two-time Western Conference champions on Friday night as they visit New Orleans to face off against Anthony Davis and the Pelicans. I could see this being a playoff preview with the Warriors still likely to be the West’s top seed and New Orleans perhaps sneaking in as a No. 8. This game is on ESPN.
Let’s be clear that one game really doesn’t matter much in the NBA’s 82-game regular-season grind. And let’s add that the San Antonio Spurs are an excellent club that won 67 games last year, second-best in the NBA. But if you saw Golden State’s 129-100 home blowout loss to the Spurs on Tuesday coming, well, you should be writing this prediction stories ahead of me. Golden State lost just twice at home all last regular season and started 36-0 there. It was a loss 22 points worse than either of the two Golden State home defeats from the 2015-16 regular season.
Kawhi Leonard, not Steph Curry or Kevin Durant, was the best player on the floor in that game with a career-high 35 points. Durant had 27 points and 10 rebounds in his Golden State debut. Curry added 26 points and Draymond Green 18 points, 12 rebounds, six assists and five steals. But Klay Thompson had just 11 and the Golden State bench was largely invisible. Andre Iguodala, for example, had two points and was minus-28 in 27 minutes. The Spurs outrebounded the Warriors 55-35 and had a 26-4 advantage in second chance points. The Warriors are still favorites to win their second NBA title in three years, but no eventual champ has lost by more than 25 points in a season opener.
With all due respect to LeBron James or Curry or Durant, the most dominant force right now in the NBA when healthy his New Orleans big man Anthony Davis. The former No. 1 overall pick just has trouble staying on the court; he suffered a sprained ankle a few weeks ago in the preseason that put his start to the season in jeopardy. But Davis was in there Wednesday night against Denver and all he did was put up 50 points, 16 rebounds, seven steals, five assists and four blocks. But his team lost 107-102. Davis became the first player to post at least 45 points, 15 rebounds, five assists and five steals in a game since steals were recorded in 1973-74. Davis became only the fourth player in NBA history to score 50 points or more in a season opener, joining Michael Jordan (twice), Wilt Chamberlain and Elgin Baylor.
The problem is that Davis has little help. The Pelicans’ starting backcourt of Jrue Holiday and Tyreke Evans are both out, with Holiday tending to his sick wife and Evans recovering from surgery. So the team is starting Tim Frazier and E’Twaun Moore. Those guys are backup-level players in the NBA. While Davis shot 17-of-34 in the loss, the rest of the Pelicans combined to shoot 21-of-58. Moore missed a 3-point attempt that could have tied the contest with 24 seconds left. The Pelicans’ first-round pick, Buddy Hield, was held to four points on 2-for-8 shooting. I actually think he’s a decent Rookie of the Year choice. Of course New Orleans head coach Alvin Gentry served as associate head coach of the Warriors during the 2014-15 season, helping lead the team to its first championship in 40 years.
Last season, the Warriors swept the season series against the Pelicans (3-0) for the third time in the last four seasons. Golden State has won eight of the last nine meetings vs. the Pelicans in New Orleans. Last year, the Warriors’ point totals in the wins were 111, 134 and 125. This is only Game 2, but it will matter for Golden State after being embarrassed on Tuesday.
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Matt has been a sports journalist for nearly two decades. He is a former sports editor/writer at two newspapers and a magazine. Went full-time freelance sports writer in 2008 -- not by choice then but became a life-changing decision in the best possible way. Consider myself expert on all major US sports. If you are looking for Curling or Badminton expertise, etc., I'm not your guy.