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Pelicans could not recover from slow start in opener

New Orleans guard Evans hurts left knee in defeat

POSTED: Apr 18, 2015 9:42 PM ET

By Scott Howard-Cooper

BY Scott Howard-Cooper

NBA.com

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Pelicans' forward Anthony Davis and his teammates must figure out how to have a better start in Monday's Game 2 in Oakland.

— It took a hot streak to get to 41 percent shooting from the field.
Anthony Davis had one rebound in 21 minutes, point guard Tyreke Evans was in the locker room getting his left knee checked and his backup, Jrue Holiday was still being nursed along.

And that was just by the end of the second quarter.

That's how fast things fell apart for the visiting Pelicans on Saturday afternoon, in the first half of the first playoff game. The bad start was so quick that the frantic fourth quarter couldn't salvage anything except their self-respect. In a flash Game 1 of the playoffs was over almost as soon as it started. It finished Golden State 106, New Orleans 99 even with the Pelicans' recovery down the stretch, which should give them some optimism.

In other news, they may not actually recover.

That's the real issue moving forward to Game 2 at the same Oracle Arena on Monday night and the rest of the best-of-seven opening round, that the Pelicans had a microscopic chance to win the series at full strength and now are already facing a manpower shortage at a critical spot.

Holiday, the projected starting point guard, hasn't played more than 25 minutes in any of the four outings since returning from missing 41 games because of a leg injury. Evans, his replacement, left in the second quarter of the opener, headed to the locker room and to uncertainty after 12 minutes of action.

The initial diagnosis was a bruised left knee, the result of a collision. But Evans told ESPN.com he "felt a little pop, felt a little snap" and that he would have an MRI later Saturday. That was after the Pelicans said at halftime there was a chance he could return for the third quarter, only to not so much as make it back to the bench before being ruled out.

It's not a body blow like losing Davis, the superstar, but a thinning depth chart is a huge deal, because New Orleans was facing an uphill battle against the Warriors backcourt of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson.

Hurting in the backcourt while facing the Warriors inevitably leads to a damage report not covered by most insurance policies. Neither went crazy in Game 1 and Curry, the MVP favorite, still had 34 points despite missing nine of 13 from behind the arc and Thompson still had 21 points while missing 11 of 17 field goals. It could, and will, got a lot worse for the Pelicans trying to contain the Golden State backcourt.

Now imagine New Orleans confronting the danger with Holiday limited to 21 minutes, after playing 25, 15 and 16 minutes the previous three games, and Evans probably ailing Monday if he is able to play at all.

"I'm not sure about Tyreke just yet," coach Monty Williams said. "He tried to come back. They're going to get him an MRI (Saturday) evening and see where he is. But as far as being painted in the corner, we've dealt with this all year long with our team. So it's not a big deal for us. Obviously we'd like to have Jrue and Tyreke healthy, but Norris (Cole) did a good job. He didn't shoot it especially well, but I thought he did a good job of settling us down, and our guard play was a lot better in the second half. We'll see where (Evans) is (Sunday) and we'll make our adjustments from there."

There is that -- the Pelicans dealt with injury problems much of the season, with Davis sidelined four times in February alone and Holiday missing half of 2014-15 and Ryan Anderson missing 18 consecutive games just after the All-Star break because of a sprained right knee. And they survived. All those problems and they still clawed their way into the playoffs.

That was the same resiliency on display Saturday, when Golden State built a double-digit lead with the game barely eight minutes old, was up 18 at halftime, and ahead by 25 with 1:04 remaining in the third quarter. New Orleans was done. Except then New Orleans wasn't, thanks to a 31-18 charge through most of the final period that closed the deficit to 102-97 with 20 seconds left as Davis piled up 20 points and six rebounds in the fourth. The comeback ended there.

Now all the Pelicans need is to play like that for more than 11 or 12 minutes, while possibly playing short-handed.

The challenge will be tough on Monday as the Warriors have won a franchise-tying 19 in a row at home. They may have to attempt the streak with Cole, a two-time champion with the Heat who averaged 24.4 minutes in 28 games after being traded in February, playing a larger role.

"It's always tough," New Orleans shooting guard Eric Gordon said. "We've dealt with it before, throughout the year. Against a team like this, during this part of the year, it's tough."

It's tough, period. Against a team like this, the Warriors, it's inviting problems on a high-speed conveyer belt, as fast as things fell apart Saturday.

Scott Howard-Cooper has covered the NBA since 1988. You can e-mail him here and follow him on Twitter.

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