David Lee is playing THE best basketball of his life.
Well, that may be extreme. I do not know how many PPG he put up in fourth grade. But this IS his best stretch in three seasons as a Warrior. His play has been borderline All-Star level over the last few weeks. Barely into Tuesday night's game Stephen Curry and Festus Ezeli each put a dime into the Lee machine and got back an alley-oop throwdown that lit up sold-out Oracle Arena like a Hannibal Smith cigar. Those were but two of Lee's eventual 26 points.
It was not all pretty early on, however, as the Warriors began 3-of-12 on FGA, with two dunks and a Klay Thompson fastbreak layup accounting for the three. Icy as Arthur Mitchell at the outset, soon Curry, Thompson and Jarrett Jack could not miss. In fact, Jack threw up—and sank—no fewer than three shots fading away, practically two-handed, with long Hornet arms impeding his vision.
The Warriors ended the first quarter with a textbook 2-for-1, capped by a so-fresh-off-the-bench-that-his-silhouette-lingered Charles Jenkins' trey from the corner to make it 31-21.
Robin Lopez had given New Orleans four early points before landing in foul trouble, after which the Hornets could find little offense from anyone not named Ryan Anderson for several minutes. However, Golden State caught the turnover bug in the second quarter, especially F Carl Landry, who—after converting one of the best accidental 3-point plays this writer has seen—fumbled away his next three touches, two of which would have been layups/free throws. Without these giveaways, this game is a repeat of the Atlanta game. Instead, New Orleans hung around and trailed by just nine at halftime.
Sloppy again to open the third (Lee threw a reckless crosscourt pass that was fortunately deflected out of bounds; Ezeli threw a defensive rebound directly to Anthony Davis about six feet away; back-to-back turnovers at about the 7:35 mark; coughing up a would-be Hornet shot-clock violation), the Warriors still maintained a rough double-digit lead on the strength of their shooting...and the Hornets' lack thereof.
This was the first extended look I (and plenty others) have had at Kentucky alum Davis, the number one pick in the 2012 draft who has been sidelined much of the season with a bum ankle. Assessment: raw offensively (the kid is 19), a step slow defensively (understandable), but long, long, long and hardworking. He was effective on the boards, forced the aforementioned back-to-back turnovers with his length and emphatically rejected a Jenkins layup in the third quarter's closing moments. Plus, Richard Jefferson was forced to leave the game after looking directly at him twice in 15 seconds (KIDDING...trust me, others are saying FAR worse).
Historically, Davises in New Orleans are not fondly remembered. Baron Davis feuded with coach Byron Scott before being traded to the Warriors. Dale Davis was waived before playing a minute. And Ricky Davis was Ricky Davis—but I'm not here to talk about the past. This Davis seems like a decent enough kid—he was seen jovially laughing with Lee moments after being inadvertently headbutted by him late in the game—who should be no worse than ex-Warrior number one pick Joe Smith, who had a solid 16-year career. But he will not be Tim Duncan.
But back to tonight's game:
Four strokes of bad Warrior luck (Lee snaring an O-rebound with two toenails out-of-bounds; Lee called for a questionable foul on Anderson; Landry missing a one-handed slam; a rare turnover by Jack) and the Hornets were in flight. Down 90-78, by the 3:30 mark things were tied at 92. For some reason, Davis decided to drive to the basket and proved my Duncan point by simply falling down. Next, the karma gods nabbed Anderson for "traveling", and in no time Golden State was back up by six.
With the assistance of fouls by Davis and Austin Rivers (the latter of whom, in the words of announcer Bob Fitzgerald, "hit [Jack's] elbow with his teeth") the Dubs swatted away the Hornets in the end 103-96. They had it all the way, right?
Note: the aforementioned Baron Davis guested on The Mindy Project along with Amar'e Stoudemire tonight...not that I'm a fan of the show or anything...