New Orleans Hornets 95, San Antonio Spurs 88: So that’s why Anthony Davis was the #1 pick

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The first game of the season in New Orleans, where the Spurs won 99-95, was billed as the old Tim Duncan versus the new Tim Duncan (Anthony Davis). It didn’t quite turn out that way, but it was still a fun affair with a little back-and-forth between the two big men sprinkled in late. New Orleans’ 95-88 win over the Spurs on Monday night, though, was a little closer to what the hype machine had in mind when it comes to pitting the two big men against each other.

Davis had 17 points, nine rebounds and three steals in the Hornets’ win over the Spurs, where New Orleans held San Antonio to a below-average 95.9 offensive rating. On Monday afternoon over at SI, Rob Mahoney labeled the Spurs offensive precision this season as “atom-splitting.” Against the Hornets last night, it was lucky to be wood chopping.

Davis was a big reason for that. The #1 overall pick had a Kawhi Leonard-like nature on the floor, using his length and athleticism to disrupt what the Spurs wanted to do on offense. On one play in the first quarter, Kawhi Leonard was in the corner with the ball. He attempted to make a diagonal pass to the opposite wing and Davis plucked the ball out of the sky and went the other way with it.

Though Davis didn’t defend Duncan directly, most of that responsibility went to Robin Lopez, Duncan did matchup with Davis a lot on the other end. His length and athleticism were a lot for Duncan to handle on this night. There were many a moment where Davis was able to jump over and around Duncan to rebounds and loose balls.

In the 11 minutes the Spurs starting group was on the floor together, it shot just 7-of-16 (43.8%) from the floor and committed five turnovers, scoring just 16 points. In the first quarter, the Spurs as a whole racked up seven turnovers and finished the night with 19.

San Antonio was close on several occasions in the fourth quarter. Considering all the turnovers the Spurs committed, they were still in this game late. New Orleans had a five point lead going into the fourth quarter after the Spurs closed the third on an 8-0 run, but the Hornets drained back-to-back 3-pointers to start the fourth and went up 11. The lead then dwindled to three points with about five minutes left in the game, but Eric Gordon scored six straight points from the midrange, followed by a Davis dunk, pushing New Orleans’ lead to nine points.

That was the end of any drama right there, as the Spurs weren’t able to cut into the lead after that point and Gregg Popovich pulled the plug a couple minutes later. Live to fight another day, I suppose.

A couple other notes from San Antonio’s loss in the Big Easy:

  • We got another good Manu Ginobili game, despite the loss. Manu scored 21 points on 7-of-13 shooting off the bench. He also had five rebounds, four assists and two steals. More than anything, though, his movement seems better, he’s more active and looks willing to take more of those chances that lead to the very unique Ginobili things that popular YouTube clips thrive on. He also had another dunk, which is usually a good sign.
  • A rare inefficient night from Tim Duncan. The Fundamental shot 5-of-13 from the floor for 13 points and eight rebounds. He also committed five of the Spurs’ 19 turnovers, which is a rarity for him. Expect a bounce-back game on Wednesday night against the Lakers.
  • The Hornets looked primed to become a defensive force for years to come. New Orleans’ frontcourt is stocked with long, athletic, strong players like Davis, Al-Farouq Aminu and Robin Lopez. Giving guys like that to Monty Williams, a very good defensive coach, and you’ve got all the makings for a very good defensive team. The future is bright for them if Eric Gordon can tame the injury bug, Ryan Anderson can continue to develop and they can add one more young piece.
  • Danny Green 0-of-5 from the floor (0-of-4 from 3) and didn’t score a point. Icy Hot was all icy and no hot in this game.

Lineup and play-by-play data courtesy of NBA.com/Stats