Here’s good news and bad news in one sentence, Pelicans fans:
Barring a playoff rematch from a year ago, you won’t be seeing Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors in the Smoothie King Center again this season.
The good part: The consensus predictions that the defending NBA champions and the reigning MVP won’t repeat look to be very off, so having to play those guys only one more time — March 14 in Oakland — is in the Pels’ favor.
The bad part: We won’t get another in-person chance to see the phenomenal Curry and his outstanding supporting cast, who put on a Halloween show to remember in their 134-120 victory Saturday.
Curry’s 53 points were one shy of his personal high as well as one off a Pelicans opponents mark, both of which he doubtless would have easily broken had he not sat out the first 4:52 of the fourth quarter.
Of course, since Curry had scored 28 points in the third period, he had merited a little sit-down time.
Five days earlier, Curry put 40 on the Pels in Golden State’s 111-95 victory in the season opener. That’s 93 points in less than a week, along with 16 assists.
“The scary part is that he’s got more of them in him because he’s just 27,” said Pels TV play-by-play man Joel Meyers, who has broadcast more than 3,000 games. “He’s just that good and he’s taken his game to the next level. He needs no time with that super-quick release. You can’t guard him any better.”
Pels guard Toney Douglas had an up-close look at one of the best of those shots.
In the final minute of the third quarter, with Douglas’ arms in his face just in front of the Pels bench, Curry launched one of his 14 3-point attempts, which, like 10 others Saturday night, hit nothing but net.
“He can shoot, man,” Douglas said. “He’s a great shooter.
“I’m pretty sure he’s going to have a lot of records in this league. You can tell he’s worked on his craft a lot with all of that ball handling, passing and shooting ability. But at the end of the day, it’s about what the Pelicans need to do to get better.”
Pels coach Alvin Gentry, despite being the assistant head coach of the Warriors last year, was in no mood to heap excessive praise on the player who helped him earn his first championship ring.
“Steph’s a great player, but we allowed him to do a lot of the things he did tonight,” Gentry said. “We didn’t find a way to slow them down, to stop them to keep them out of transition.
“We’ve got to do a better job and I’ve got to do a better job. I have to.”
A week into the season the Pels are 0-3, and while starting 0-3 in the NBA doesn’t put you in the hole for making the playoffs like starting 0-3 in the NFL like Tom Benson’s other team did, there comes a time when unless you’re interested in having a lottery pick, you’ve got to start winning.
The next opportunity to do that comes Tuesday at the SKC against Orlando.
The Magic, the only non-playoff team from last season the Pelicans play in their first nine games, are 0-2, but before Saturday’s game Gentry singled out Orlando as one of the improved teams from the Eastern Conference which must be taken seriously.
Of course, at this stage, the Pels should be taking the Washington Generals seriously.
It does help that they’re getting healthier.
Omer Asik and Luke Babbitt made their first appearances of the season Saturday. And while Asik was as invisible as he was in the playoff series against the Warriors — no points and one rebound in 10 minutes, Babbitt did have six rebounds Saturday, a big improvement over his 1.8 norm from a year ago.
Jrue Holiday also showed what he’s capable of when he gets the pitch count taken off with 22 points and six assists.
But it was still a little disconcerting to see Tyreke Evans, Quincy Pondexter and Norris Cole coming out in street clothes in the pregame introductions.
Last season, they averaged 34, 27 and 24 minutes, along with a collective 35.5 points per game.
That’s a lot to try to replace with Douglas, Ish Smith and Alonzo Gee.
And, as Gentry said before the game, the process of installing a new offense and a new defense will restart to a certain extent as they return, especially Evans.
“We’re taking the long view,” Gentry said. “There a lot of things we’re doing which are correctable.”
Hopefully that’s so.
Or the Pels’ 0-for-October might well be a preview of a long season ahead.