NEW ORLEANS — In the first three games of the season for the Wholesale New Orleans Pelicans Jerseys, the team was scrappy and competitive despite missing No. 1 overall pick Zion Williamson. Even without Jrue Holiday in Saturday night’s game against the Houston Rockets, the Pelicans were still in the game in the final seconds.
That wasn’t the case Monday night.
The Golden State Warriors, fresh off losing their first two games by a combined 47 points, came into the Smoothie King Center and led wire-to-wire with a 134-123 win to drop the Pelicans to 0-4.
The final score was also not indicative of how the Pelicans played, and New Orleans coach Alvin Gentry doesn’t want anyone to think anything different.
“I just thought tonight, you look at the game and you look at the score and you think, ‘Oh, it ended up being an 11 point game.’ We were never in the game,” Gentry said. “We never had any chance at all to win, and I think that’s the most disturbing thing to me, especially playing at home.”
HOUSTON — Russell Westbrook, dressed in shiny black pants and a sleeveless NASCAR T-shirt, stopped by the visitors locker room on the way out of the Toyota Center on Monday night.
Westbrook chatted with former teammates such as Steven Adams and Andre Roberson, as well as some staffers he knew well from his 11 seasons with the Wholesale Oklahoma City Thunder Jerseys. He also made small talk with Chris Paul, the point guard traded along with a package of first-round picks for Westbrook this summer. Paul cracked that Westbrook had better be careful walking into his old team’s locker room, mentioning that the league office disciplined him for doing the same thing, a reference to the heated postgame confrontation between the Wholesale Houston Rockets Jerseys and Wholesale LA Clippers Jerseys during Paul’s return to Staples Center a couple of seasons ago.
Westbrook smiled and laughed throughout the visit, quite a contrast to the sneer featured on his face during his 21-point, 12-rebound, 9-assist performance in Houston’s 116-112 victory over the Thunder.
“This is how it goes: When I hoop, I have no friends,” Westbrook said. “On the court, they know not to talk to me. Steven is a real close friend of mine, but inside those lines, there’s no friends. Spalding, that’s my friend, and my teammates, but that’s it. Before the game, after the game, I’ll talk to my guys. That doesn’t mean I don’t have friends, but during the game, I don’t. If you try to talk to me, I ain’t going to say s— to you.”
After a slow start, Westbrook’s game spoke volumes Monday night.
Westbrook went scoreless in the first quarter, missing all five shots from the floor, including a layup that didn’t even hit the rim after a wild drive on the opening possession. Houston trailed by 13 at the end of the quarter, prompting Westbrook to address the Rockets after the game about making sure they play with energy from the opening tip.
“It’s up to me to be able to make sure my guys are ready to go and not just ready but competing and playing hard,” said Westbrook, who finished 9-of-16 from the floor and had a game-best plus-minus of plus-19. “Because playing hard is not an option. For me, it’s something that we’ve got to take pride in. To be able to get to that elite level, we’ve got to do that every night.”
The Rockets didn’t really pick it up until the third quarter, when they outscored the Thunder by a 39-18 margin to roar back from a 10-point deficit. Westbrook had six points, three rebounds and four assists during the quarter, when he also picked up a technical foul for taunting rookie Darius Bazley.
Westbrook’s fingerprints were also all over the final minutes. He threw down a ferocious tomahawk dunk on a fast break and swished a midrange pull-up jumper — “a cotton shot,” as he calls it — on consecutive possessions to give the Rockets a six-point lead with 3 minutes remaining. But Westbrook’s most memorable play of the night was when he chased down the rebound of James Harden’s missed 3-pointer, penetrated into the teeth of the defense and kicked it out to PJ Tucker for a wide-open corner 3 that was a dagger with 54.8 seconds remaining.
“That’s game-winning plays right there,” said Harden, who had a game-high 40 points, doing much of his damage on free throws (21-of-22). “That’s what you need. He’s a superstar, but he’s getting offensive rebounds, he’s hustling, he’s doing the dirty things to help you win. It feels good to have that on your side.”
Paul, whose Rockets tenure will be best remembered by the hamstring strain that sidelined him for Games 6 and 7 of Houston’s 2018 Western Conference finals loss to the Wholesale Golden State Warriors Jerseys, was given a warm reception in his return to the Toyota Center. The late-arriving crowd cheered Paul when he was introduced with the Thunder’s starters and gave him a brief standing ovation following a tribute video that played during the first timeout of the game.
“Extremely grateful. The fans here were always great to me and my family,” said Paul, who had 15 points, four assists and six turnovers in the loss. “The staff … some of the people here became like family to me, and I try to stay in touch with those who were as genuine as could be.”
Paul mentioned that he still talks to former Houston teammates Tucker and Gary Clark almost every day, coyly adding that he hopes that won’t get them in trouble. He didn’t mention Harden, with whom Paul had some friction last season, during his postgame interview session but was complimentary of Westbrook.
“Russ brings a different dynamic to them with his aggressiveness,” Paul said. “He got guys open shots. I think that’s what Russ does well. He gets guys involved.”
Golden State led by as many as 29 points with 5:07 to play, but New Orleans’ backups finished the game on a 24-6 run.
Gentry said he felt the team gave themselves an opportunity to win in the first three games but couldn’t contain the Wholesale Basketball Jerseys against Golden State, and it showed in the result.
“First three games, I thought we played well and gave ourselves an opportunity to win,” Gentry said. “We talk all along about establishing some kind of home-court advantage, which is very important in making it difficult to come in here and win. If we’re going to say we’re not going to bow down, then we’re going to have to do a lot better than that from the standpoint of the way we compete when teams come in here.”
Along with missing Williamson and Holiday, the Pelicans were also without center Derrick Favors, who wasn’t available because of right knee soreness.
Without Favors in the lineup, the Pelicans struggled on the glass. New Orleans hadn’t been out-rebounded by more than four in its first 3 games, but the Pelicans were out-rebounded 61-41 against the Warriors.
Golden State also flexed their muscle on the offensive glass with 19 offensive rebounds, which led to 30 second-chance points.
“That’s not really something that they’re known for. They struggle in that department the last five years, really,” Gentry said. “That was something that was glaring.”
Pelicans forward Brandon Ingram, who finished with a game-high 27 points and led New Orleans with 10 rebounds, pointed to the defensive rebounding as an issue the team needs to clear up.
“Just getting it off the glass, trying to get into offense fast, trying to not let the other team have second chance points, that’s been hurting us a little bit, but we’ve just got to stay together,” Ingram said. “As a new group, we continue to get better and try not to take any steps backwards.”
Ingram also wouldn’t get discouraged about his team’s winless start.
“We have enough guys in here where we feel like we can win basketball games,” Ingram said. “I think we just got down a little bit when we weren’t making shots. It affected our energy a little bit. We have the guys in this room that we need, so we won’t get discouraged at all.”