Stephen Curry flexed on ’em.
Then, the Pelicans showed they won’t be pushed around – not that much, at least.
Curry, who entered the league with SIGNIFICANT questions about his strength, got hacked by Anthony Davis on a second-quarter layup but still incredibly flipped the ball off the high glass and in. The Warriors guard jogged toward the New Orleans bench, raised his arms, extended his elbows and tucked in his fists.
Golden State spent most of a 106-99 Game 1 victory over New Orleans on Sunday looking matured and confident – essentially like the championship favorite it is.
But a late Pelicans run, fueled by 20 of Davis’ 35 points coming in the fourth quarter, leaves a sour taste in the Warriors’ mouth.
“This was a good test for us to start the playoffs when we haven’t had many experiences like this down the stretch like this this season,” Curry said. “So, we needed it.”
With Curry (34 points and five assists) playing like an MVP and Draymond Green defending Davis like a Defensive Player of the Year would, the Warriors led by as many as 25. They led by double digits most of the game.
Then Davis got aggressive, getting to the rim and drawing fouls.
Golden State, meanwhile, shot just 7-of-14 on free throws down the stretch. Credit Monty Williams for intentionally fouling Andre Iguodala (2-of-4 from the line in crunch time) to increase variance, but Klay Thompson (1-of-4), Curry (1-of-2) and even Green (1-of-2) just whiffed.
Those misses didn’t matter, though.
This was no scrimmage, but the Warriors have so much more margin for error.
The Pelicans competed, even after losing Tyreke Evans, who bruised his left knee in the second quarter. And maybe they learned how to get Davis more involved on both ends, which will be crucial to them stealing a game or two.
Still, New Orleans looked overwhelmed until getting down big. There’s still little evidence, last week’s win over a locked-into-the-top-seed Warriors included, the Pelicans can challenge a fully engaged Golden State.
They’ll have a chance to prove it Monday in Game 2, but there’s just as much reason to believe the Warriors can lift themselves even higher. If they need to rely more on Curry and less on Shaun Livingston, who was -21 in 13 minutes, they will.
The Warriors were far from perfect, but they didn’t need to be. It’s on Davis and New Orleans to push them for more than just the final few minutes.