You can live with the tough ones.
The ones Stephen Curry sinks from deep behind the 3-point line, defender in his face — and there were plenty of those Saturday night at the Smoothie King Center — are indefensible.
The Pelicans can tip their cap to those, and they did after Curry dropped 53 points in Golden State’s 134-120 win against New Orleans in the home opener.
Other shots aren’t so easy to stomach.
“He just didn’t feel us,” coach Alvin Gentry said. “If you allow him to play that loose, then the end result is gonna be that. We got to get into him a lot more. Yes he made some tough shots, but we let him off the hook, also, by letting him get over the top of screens.”
Curry went over, under around and through the Pelicans defense. His 28-point third quarter was the highest-scoring of his career. He outscored the Pelicans by two in the period, and the Warriors broke open what had been a close game, outpacing the hosts 41-26 in the third.
On the one hand, the Pelicans had a tough time swallowing that, a tough time accepting a defensive effort that allowed the Warriors to shoot 54.8 percent, that surrendered 24 fast-break points and 17 3-pointers in 30 attempts.
“We just got to play with more effort,” said forward Anthony Davis, who had 26 points and 15 rebounds. “We got to play with more energy, more heart. We’ve been working on stuff since camp and drilling and drilling and drilling. We’re still not getting to it as fast as possible. That’s how Steph was going down the lane getting layups. We got to want it more. We just got to do it. Why we’re not doing it, we don’t know.”
On the other hand, the Pelicans can see progress.
Yes, they’ve lost twice to the Warriors in less than a week. Yes, they’re 0-3 as they prepare to host Orlando on Tuesday.
But the Pelicans made some strides Saturday. They scored 120 points against a team that last season led the NBA in defense. They shot 46 percent, hit 8 of 22 3-pointers and outrebounded the Warriors 48-38.
They got solid play from Jrue Holiday, who went slightly over his raised minutes restriction — he was cleared to play 25 and played almost 27 — and finished with 22 points and six assists.
They welcomed back center Omer Asik and forward Luke Babbitt, who didn’t make significant contributions but saw their first regular-season action, and got 17 points off the bench from Toney Douglas, who joined the team on Friday.
That didn’t do much for Gentry. He thought the Pelicans “played a little selfish offensively, to tell you the truth,” despite 22 assists. The rebounding numbers, he said, were skewed by the Warriors’ red-hot shooting.
And Gentry didn’t give his defense a pass on Curry’s big night, nor on Golden State’s inflated numbers. Curry hit 10 of 13 shots in the third quarter, including 5 of 7 3-pointers. He slashed to the basket and shot from deep. He made difficult shots over Davis or while being fouled by Alonzo Gee.
But the Warriors make shots, Gentry said, and the Pelicans’ downfall was not making Curry work for them earlier.
“We’re trying to match basket for basket, and that won’t work out against that team right there,” Gentry said. “You got to find a way to slow them down and stop them and keep them out of transition.”
Davis saw some silver linings in the Pelicans’ offensive output. The team put up 120 points, he noted, on the defending champs while still searching for an identity.
But the defense — and the losing — take a toll, Davis said. It’s only three games, but Davis said he, Holiday and Kendrick Perkins will work to “keep everybody sane and try to weather the storm.”
“We’re gonna get there,” Davis said. “Everything’s new right now. We’re gonna get there, and when we get there, we’re gonna be all right.”