The Pelicans Looked Young Against a Young Warriors Squad—The Difference Was Golden State’s Veterans

At one point in the fourth quarter—right before he was subbed out for garbage time—Steph Curry made two jaw-dropping behind-the-back passes in one play, embarrassing the Pels’ young squad. And the second of those passes resulted in a clean three from D’Angelo Russell from the corner, pushing the Warriors’ lead to 29.

In a lot of ways, you could say that this play told the whole story of the night.

The veteran Warriors’ Championship experience in Curry and defensive powerhouse Draymond Green, paired with young up-and-coming stars like Russell (see play above) helped seal the game away for them. The Pelicans were able to scrape up some outstanding individual performances, but weren’t able to find that same balance of veterans and young-uns. 

You could argue that the Pelicans had a pretty lengthy injury list. They were missing rookie sensation Zion Williamson, their veteran star Jrue Holiday, and Derrick Favors. But so did the Warriors: shooting guard All Star Klay Thompson and center Willie Cauley-Stein, among others. Both teams’ key players needed to step up in their missing teammates’ place, but the Warriors have been there before. And it showed.

The other factor was desperation. The Pelicans came into their home stand with three straight losses, seeking their first win of the season against the Western Conference Champions. But the Golden State Warriors were also hungry for their first win after starting the season off 0-3. So the Pelicans ended up losing it 134-123.

In the first quarter, the Warriors jumped out to a 17-8 lead, causing the Pelicans to use a quick timeout. But after that rough start, the Pelicans were able to slightly adjust their miscues and were able to cut the lead down to less than five. Key Pelicans players such as Kenrich Williams and Frank Jackson stepped off the bench and contributed to beating back the deficit. Also in the first quarter, rookie Jaxon Hayes made his season debut, which would later result in a whopping 19 points, the second-highest for his team on the night. As for the Warriors, their rookie Jordan Poole had nine quick points in the first quarter, which helped the Warriors maintain the lead.

In the second quarter, the Warriors started off hot. They separated themselves and took a 20-point lead, forcing the Pelicans to call another timeout. After the timeout, the Pelicans were able to produce points but had very few stops on defense. Pelicans had trouble slowing down Curry in the first half, as he dropped 17 points—13 of them in the second quarter alone. In order to win this game, the Pelicans defense needed to step up and have a strong second half from their core players. Unfortunately, though, it didn’t seem like they were headed in that direction.

To start the third quarter, Brandon Ingram came out with an emphatic dunk over Jordan Poole. Besides the dunk—and Ingram’s outstanding 27-point, 10-rebound performance on the night, not to mention an NBA-historic start to the season—the Pelicans didn’t have much spark on offense.

New Orleans was outscored 31-24 in the third, with the Warriors continuing to display their dominance with their young players showing out. As for the Pelicans, Ingram continued to produce but other players needed to step up. Headed into the fourth, the Pels were desperate to make a push to get back into the game.

The last quarter was practically the definition of garbage time. The Pelicans put on an impressive attempt—with Jaxon Hayes having his own historic night, helped by putting up 12 in the fourth quarter alone—but were unable to make a comeback. 

Meanwhile, the Warriors’ guards continued to pull away and exploit the Pelicans’ lackluster defense. Late in the fourth, with two minutes remaining, with the Warriors subbing deep into their bench, the Pels tried to make a comeback but it was too little too late.

In the end, it was all about the Warriors and their balanced offense. Not to mention their balance of available veterans and rookies. Despite the loss, the Pelicans saw a lot of promise from rookie Jaxson Hayes. Hayes finished with 19 points in his debut and even had a big-time swat on all star Steph Curry. Hayes was clearly outshined by Curry, who finishing with 27 points and 11 assists. But this—maybe like this loss—was to be expected. 

The Pelicans schedule won’t get any easier in their next few games. Thursday night they’ll be back in the Smoothie King vs the Denver Nuggets, who are 3-0 coming off a win vs. the Sacramento Kings. But, because it’s a new game this might finally be an opportunity for the Pels to steal a game at home and get their first win of the season.