The Pelicans began their season with a world-class explosion from Anthony Davis and a disappointing but inspiring loss to the Denver Nuggets.
Anthony Davis is BACK.
The basketball messiah of the Bayou has returned in dominating fashion. AD put up a glorious 50 points, 16 rebounds, 5 assists, 7 steals, and 4 blocks tonight.
The best word to describe AD’s performance is probably “energetic.”
He was sprinting full speed, leaping like a gazelle, and pumping his fists the entire night. He was focused from the opening to the final buzzer and set a perfect example attitude and culture to his newly acquired teammates.
As many may remember, AD started last season very differently.
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Throughout the Pelicans first 15 games he seemed sluggish and disinterested. Analysts criticized his attitude and commitment on the defense end while tampering their sky-high expectations.
Very few of us ever turn on Davis when he’s on a cold streak and can’t hit a shot, but the fan-base began to bash him for his lack of effort and drive.
AD was electric last night, and looked the healthiest he’s been in years. If those two factors remain constant the Pelicans are in for a successful season regardless of his supporting cast.
Which brings us to our next topic, AD’s sidekicks…
The non-Anthony Davis Pelicans shot just 36% from the field last night.
AD would hit wild contested running hooks, only to have Solomon Hill brick yet another three pointer the following possession. Everyone outside of Tim Frazier, who had 15 points, 11 assists and 5 rebounds, seemed to be frantically trying to adjust to their new surroundings.
This is expected. The Pelicans shook up their roster significantly this summer and the first month of the year will come with some wrinkles that need to be ironed out. The important thing to note tonight is that while the Pelicans supporting cast didn’t match AD’s production, they never failed to match his energy.
Oct 26, 2016; New Orleans, LA, USA; Denver Nuggets guard Emmanuel Mudiay (0) takes a shot while defended by New Orleans Pelicans guard Tim Frazier (2) in the second quarter at the Smoothie King Center. Mandatory Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports
Lance Stephenson was terrorizing ball handlers on the defensive end and was doing his best “I got this” style Tyreke Evans impression on the offensive end. His performance peaked with a gorgeous slam dunk and some over-excessive shouting and waving of his arms.
Jones, Buddy, and Galloway all struggled on offense, but they hustled the whole game and when they got chances to attack they threw themselves into the teeth of the defense with reckless abandon.
Due to the Pelicans shooting woes, they were down by about 10 almost the entire night. Midway through the 4th quarter AD checked back into the game and began to take over once again. He was hunting for penetrable passing lanes with intense focus and grabbed 7 steals.
The Pelicans would score 26 of their points off of Nuggets turnovers by the end of the night, the Nuggets would score only eight.
In sports there aren’t really any “moral victories,” but last night was about as close as you get.
Oct 26, 2016; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Pelicans forward Anthony Davis (23) shoots while defended by Denver Nuggets forward Kenneth Faried (35) in the second half at the Smoothie King Center. The Nuggets won, 107-102. Mandatory Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports
AD made a strong opening statement. Frazier showed he’s more than comfortable filling in for Jrue Holiday. Stephenson showed he still has fire in the tank. The rest of the Pelicans supporting cast showed a tenacity and effort previously lacking in this team’s cultural mindset.
The shots weren’t falling, but that doesn’t mean players weren’t executing. Some offensive sets turned into madness and Stephenson did have one concerning “wave off,” but this group mostly kept themselves engaged and focused enough to keep it close.
There are dozens of questions about this roster we cannot yet answer. Hill, Buddy, Moore, Jones, and Stephenson are all still question marks that may or may not pan out.
The main takeaway from last night is that this team’s culture seems significantly better, even if the results are lagging slightly behind…..