Davis: ‘We can beat’ Warriors 

Anthony Davis confessed that his first NBA postseason game didn’t go according to plan exactly.

The New Orleans Pelicans’ star forward was peeved when a fourth foul sent him to the bench with 7:01 left in the third quarter of Saturday’s 106-99 loss. Hacked off, presumably, to turn the ball over on his first postseason possession and to have his usual comfort and gliding aggression curbed for the opening 36 minutes. And ticked off, undoubtedly, that his team faced a double-digit gap for almost half of the game, fighting all afternoon to dig out of a 25-point hole.

“I know I wasn’t aggressive in the first half,” Davis said before practice at USF on Sunday. “And in the third quarter, I got into foul trouble and I couldn’t play, so I was kind of peeved. I told myself when I get back in the game, be aggressive. Just because they were up 20 doesn’t mean they’d won the game, especially in the playoffs.

“My first playoff experience, it was pretty hectic. So much going on, it was so loud I couldn’t hear my teammates, my coaches ... it’s definitely a different level. Calls are different. Guys been scouting you, they know your moves. But this is what you come to the league for, to get playoff experience and eventually get to the [NBA] Finals and win a ring. But it starts here.”

Indeed, the Pelicans clawing back and keeping the game competitive started and finished with Davis’ domineering 20-point quarter, 18 coming in the last 5:05. In the end, he helped shave the Warriors’ advantage to a mere four points at 103-99, which could’ve been closer had the Pelicans’ bigs boxed out Harrison Barnes following Stephen Curry’s missed free throw in the final 6 seconds.

All of which prompted Davis to say, “We can beat this team.” Those facts also beg a potentially problematic proposition for the Warriors in Game 2 tonight: What happens if Davis plays on that same level, with that same edge, for four quarters? Or just as troubling, what unfolds if Davis’ end-of-game prowess factors into a closer game instead of a would-be blowout?

“A lot of young guys would’ve folded the tent after his first half,” Pelicans coach Monty Williams said. “He doesn’t run from the moment. That’s not his deal.

“Late-game situations, if I’m out there in the huddle, he’s looking me in the eyes the whole time. If I look up, he’s looking at me. Because he just wants to tell me like, ‘OK, give me the ball. I’ll do it.’”

The Warriors may be reminded of that yet again — even if the broader statistical picture of Game 1 still leaves them with the creeping feeling they very well could’ve dealt an emphatic opening message and won by 37 points instead of seven, Davis’ output be damned.

Indeed, coach Steve Kerr knows that, with 18 missed 3s, 13 wayward free throws and an array of missed layups and lackadaisical lob passes, his team left points aplenty on the table.

And yet, New Orleans, which may be without Tyreke Evans (bruised left knee bone) in Game 2, can draw strength from their second-half momentum. Or from Norris Cole’s energetic 34 minutes and plus-12 point differential. Or from the fact the Pelicans forced Draymond Green, Davis’ flexing foil for much of Game 1, to play 42 minutes, his highest total since mid-December.

Of course, nothing offers more optimism than Davis’ fourth-quarter onslaught, no matter the consistently stout defending from Green and Andrew Bogut from tipoff to final buzzer.

“They did a good job of loading up,” Davis said. “So wherever I went, left or right, there was a guy sitting right there. And it’s tough to play against that.”

“It’s not like he’s playing against the Brothers of Tranquility,” Williams added, perhaps offering the Warriors’ marketing team a new nickname in the process. “They’re trying to take him out. Draymond and Bogut are both really good defenders, but [Davis] started figuring out a few things.”

Indeed, the 22-year-old face of his franchise seems to be figuring out NBA postseason life quickly, from defensive schemes to offering up the right words even in defeat.

“We don’t believe in moral victories,” Davis said. “But what we did in the second half gives us a lot of confidence.”

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Jack Ross

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