OAKLAND --For three quarters, the Warriors kept the Pelicans’ biggest weapon from having much of an impact in his first career NBA playoff game.
In the fourth, though, Anthony Davis was the best player on the court. Not coincidentally New Orleans made a push, turning what looked like a blowout into a 106-99 defeat at Oracle Arena on Saturday afternoon.
Davis finished with a game-high 35 points, 20 of which came in the fourth quarter. He also grabbed seven rebounds, and blocked four shots.
The six-foot-10, 220-pound forward, who led the Pelicans with 24.4 points per game in the regular season, admitted that he didn’t start feeling comfortable until “mostly after halftime.”
“The playoffs are so different,” Davis said. “You don't get a lot of the calls you normally get. It's a lot more physical. So there is a lot of adjusting that you have to do.
“Coming out of halftime I just tried to be aggressive. We made adjustments offensively. My teammates did a great job getting me the ball where I needed to score, and it all just looked so fluent out there. It was a lot easier not just for myself, but for my teammates as well.”
Pelicans coach Monty Williams agreed that his star forward regrouped in the dressing room.
“I thought he settled down. He had some buckets early that he typically doesn't miss,” Williams said. “Second half, he figured some things out. I thought - not that he wasn't calm - but I thought he settled into what the game was like, what they were taking away and what he could do.”
Davis’ performance was especially vital in that the Pelicans lost guard Tyreke Evans with a knee injury in the first half. He was scheduled to undergo an MRI later on Saturday.
Norris Cole said: “Once he got a feel for what they were doing, he was able to be effective down there. We’re going to need those types of numbers from him, but we’ve also got to help as the supporting cast and bring our game.”
The first quarter resembled what the game was: a legitimate contender against a team that barely snuck into the postseason. New Orleans was held to just 13 points, while Golden State had 28 in front of its raucous home crowd, including some highlight reel baskets from Stephen Curry.
For New Orleans, Saturday marked its first playoff appearance since 2011. According to Jrue Holiday, it showed.
“I think we were very anxious and excited to get out there,” he said. “They’ve obviously been doing this longer than we have, especially as a team. They came out and just kept on jabbing us. We came back.”
Quincy Pondexter said: “Our first quarter didn't turn out the way we wanted it to. We were just really anxious for this game. Guys hadn't been in this position together before. We're on the road. We're going to learn from it. We won't have the same start to the game next time, we're going to adjust.”
Trailing by 18 to start the fourth, New Orleans outscored the Warriors in the final stanza, 33-22, led by Davis. The visitors forced Golden State to work for the win until the final minute of regulation.
They’re hopeful they can take some of that late success into Game 2 on Monday, before the series shifts back to New Orleans for games three and four.
Holiday said: “We’ve got the first game under our belt, and we’re going to be excited again for our second game. Definitely at the end of this game we played really well and got into a groove, so hopefully we can carry that on into the second game.”
“We're going to fight to the end. We showed that today,” Davis said. “We were down , and we still fought. Guys made big plays. We came back and gave ourselves a chance to win.”