Golden Implosion: Pelicans and Cousins let chance at great win over Warriors slip away
Let us start with the obvious regarding last night’s 125-115 victory for Golden State over New Orleans.
No one expected the Pelicans to win against a team they simply cannot beat.
Let us continue with the positive.
The Pelicans led most of the way, playing inspired basketball with many players stepping up in the absence of Anthony Davis.
Let us conclude with the reality.
New Orleans blew a 20-point halftime lead.
While the Warriors are the world champions and still the best team in the NBA, you are not supposed to blow a 20-point lead at home. It would have been a great win. Instead, it was a disappointing, if not crushing loss.
There are many reasons for the collapse.
First, Steph Curry got hot. Klay Thompson was deadly from deep. The Warriors are deeper and their bench outscored the Pelicans 26-12.
Most of all, it was about the failure on the defensive end of the floor and how the ball stopped moving on the offensive end.
The first half was a thing of beauty for New Orleans. It was beautifully, almost perfectly orchestrated. The extra pass was followed by yet another extra pass. Players got wide open looks from 3-point range and got to the basket with relative ease. Rajon Rondo made all the right decisions and Jrue Holiday looked the part of a superstar.
That ball movement simply was not the same in the second half and the results were obvious. Give the Warriors credit for making adjustments and for ramping up their game on the offensive end.
Still, when you give up 76 points in a half, you are going to lose.
With our without Davis, the Pelicans must defend better. They are a decent, sometimes solid team on the offensive end of the floor but not a dynamic offensive team like Golden State or Houston. The Pelicans must defend and rebound better on a consistent basis to be a playoff team and make their mark.
As for Davis, the news was a relief that he is day-to-day.
Rondo played well, even making a pair of wide open 3-pointers when invited to shoot by the Warriors, a bonus. He had 10 points and 11 assists. E’Twaun Moore continued his solid play with 26 points, sinking 11-of-18 shots, including a brilliant 5-of-6 from 3-point range. Holiday was terrific with 34 points, six rebounds and four assists. Dante Cunningham was efficient with 11 points and nine rebounds.
The issues were with the bench and with Demarcus Cousins.
Darius Miller was the only effective player off the bench with nine points although Omer Asik did have five rebounds in 12 minutes.
Then, there is Cousins.
While he stuffed the stat sheet with 19 points, 11 rebounds, seven assists and five steals and three blocked shots, his inability to avoid foul trouble and his continued lack of composure were huge hindrances, one in this game and the other on a long-term basis. He also had seven turnovers, a disturbing figure.
Cousins incurred two more technical fouls and was ejected from the game, along with Kevin Durant, in the closing moments of the game. Cousins did not speak with the media after the game. It was his second ejection of the season.
Cousins now has 115 technical fouls in nine seasons. He already has seven technical fouls just 24 games into the season. By league rule, once a player reached 16 technical fouls, players are then suspended for a game for every two additional technical fouls they incur. Cousins was suspended twice last year. The Pelicans cannot afford him out of action, much they cannot sustain success without Davis.
Cousins’ reputation precedes him with league officials and with opposing players, who know they can bait him into an emotional outburst.
“He has to be able to control it,” said Pelicans head coach Alvin Gentry, staring the obvious.
The Nuggets come to town on Wednesday in an important matchup with a Western conference playoff contender.
We will have to wait to see if Davis returns. We will continue to wait to see if Cousins, the man-child, can curb his temper.
New Orleans is now eighth in the conference, a game ahead of disappointing but talented Oklahoma City. Outside of Golden State, Houston and San Antonio, the fourth through eighth spots appear up for grabs in a cluster of contender including Utah, Denver, Portland, Minnesota, Oklahoma City and New Orleans. That is six teams for five spots. You can do the math.
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Born and raised in the New Orleans area, CCSE Owner and CEO Ken Trahan has been a sports media fixture in the community for nearly four decades. Ken started NewOrleans.com/Sports with Bill Hammack and Don Jones in 2008. In 2011, the site became SportsNOLA.com. On August 1, 2017, Ken helped launch CrescentCitySports.com. Having accumulated national awards/recognition (National Football Foundation, College…