OAKLAND — New Orleans is going to be exercising some patience over the first few weeks of the season.
After Tuesday night’s 111-95 season-opening loss at Oracle Arena to the defending champion Golden State Warriors, the Pelicans (0-1) were doing their best to shake off the frustration.
All-Star forward Anthony Davis was 1 of 15 from the field at one point before hitting three of his last four shots and finishing with 18 points and six rebounds.
And it wasn’t just Davis that struggled. Eric Gordon missed 12 shots. Ryan Anderson missed five of his seven.
“We’ve just got to stay with it,” Davis said. “We can’t get too down or get too frustrated. It’s only the first game of the season. We’ve got 81 games left so we’ve just got to stay locked in and keep trusting the system.”
It was a mountainous undertaking to ask an injury-plagued group that was down six players to execute a brand new scheme against a team that had just received its championship rings and unveiled its first banner in 40 years just before tipoff.
It also didn’t help that Nate Robinson, the only active point guard that had been on the team for more than a few days, was in foul trouble out of the gates. When he went to the bench, so did the Pelicans’ opportunity to develop some regular season flow with head coach Alvin Gentry’s up-tempo offense.
Point guard Ish Smith, who the Pelicans signed Monday, came in and produced, though. He scored 11 in the first quarter and finished with 17 points and nine assists in his ninth NBA debut.
Not only was he the second-leading scorer, but he played over 38 minutes — the most of any player on either side Tuesday night.
But after the game he admitted it was an 80-20 split between just playing basketball and actually knowing what he was supposed to be doing as the team’s floor general.
“I probably should’ve shot a little more of my mid-range shots, but I didn’t know what was a good shot and what a bad shot, and that just comes with the feel. (I'm) trying to find a connection with different guys and AD and where to get him the ball,” Smith said. “That’s the way the Coach Gentry wants us to play — that offense we just played against. That’s what we’re going to get to.”
His reputation as one of the fastest players in the league did translate to what Gentry would like to see the team do, but only in a few flashes. The Pelicans went on a 12-2 run in the first half that eventually led to a one-point advantage midway through the second quarter.
The transition game started to develop as defensive stops turned to outlet passes, which led to quality shots or free-throw opportunities. In fact, the lead changed six times in the first half, but when Steph Curry returned to the floor, the Warriors’ rhythm came with it, and the home team was able to quickly distance itself behind his 40-point outburst.
“We know what we can do on both ends of the floor, we’ve just got to do it,” Davis said. “We can’t do it in spurts; we’ve got to do it for the whole 48. That’s where we struggled. So we’re going to keep working on it. Good thing about the NBA is we’ve got one tomorrow so we’re up to the test again.”
With a road tilt in Portland Wednesday night — the second of a back-to-back — the Pelicans will have guard Jrue Holiday in the lineup with another opportunity to try to get their bearings in Gentry’s new system.
And until they do, utilizing a little mental endurance is going to be crucial.
“It’s definitely going to take patience,” Davis said. “We have a lot of games to play, and (Gentry) always says any team that he coached before, they didn’t get it right away, offensively. It took a while for them to actually get it and it’s going to take a while for us to pick things up, but we know what’s coming and we’re not going to make excuses because everybody’s hurt.”