The New Orleans Pelicans played as good as they could for three-and-a-half quarters. Then, the Golden State Warriors pounced. In a disheartening effort for the underdog Pelicans, the reigning NBA Champions used their sixth and final gear late on Tuesday to grab Game 2, 121-116, to push the series 2-0 in their favor as they head back to Louisiana for Game 3.
It was the fastbreak that kept the Pelicans in the game in the first half. Golden State put the clamps on New Orleans at the 3-point line, forcing the visiting squad to shoot a combined 20 percent from beyond the arc in the first two periods. The Pelicans got out in transition, scoring 20 of their 55 first half points while running the floor, led by Anthony Davis and Jrue Holiday.
For the Warriors, the story was about the return of Stephen Curry, who had 12 points off the bench in the first half alone. As a team, Golden State struggled from the 3-point line but tight passing and huge contributions from Draymond Green and Kevin Durant helped the Warriors shoulder the battering from New Orleans. Inauspiciously, Klay Thompson hit a banked 3-pointer to close the second quarter and Golden State took a 58-55 lead into the half.
Meanwhile, things started to heat up between the two sides.
That competitive fire continued in the third quarter. During one 15-second stretch late in the period, Solomon Hill was given a Flagrant 1 for a hack on Andre Iguodala and Davis and Green were whistled for a double-personal foul. Things didn’t go too far, and both sides pulled back for their own benefit.
Green opened the fourth quarter with two straight threes, setting the tone for the rest of the final period. New Orleans was able to keep it close until an Iguodala dunk with 6:41 left. Then, the Warriors took off. Golden State unleashed a barrage, led by Durant who had 15 of his 29 points in the fourth quarter alone. It wasn’t until 90 seconds left that the Pelicans mounted any kind of resistance, but by then it was too late.
Davis led the way for New Orleans, scoring 25 points to go with 15 rebounds, five assists, and two steals. Rajon Rondo had a double-double of 22 points, 12 assists, seven rebounds, and five steals. Holiday added 24 points to go along with eight rebounds and eight assists. The Pelicans dominated Golden State in transition scoring (+15) and points in the paint (+28).
For the Warriors it was not just Durant’s contributions but Curry’s as well. The star point guard had 28 points, seven rebounds, three steals, and two assists in 27 minutes of work off the bench. Green scored 20 points, going seven-of-11 from the field while coming up one rebound shy of a triple-double.
New Orleans played well, and if they had been more consistent from 3-point range it’s possible they could have taken Game 2. But the Warriors are a good defensive team, and no doubt Steve Kerr has scouted them well. Taking away the weapon they used to decimate the Portland Trail Blazers — the arc — was no accident, and that New Orleans played near their peak but still came up short is a testament to the pure power of the Warriors.
Game 3 is in New Orleans on Friday, May 4.