Dante Cunningham found himself matchup with Stephen Curry after a scramble resulted in yet another loose ball escaping the fatigued Pelicans. Cunningham turned around and practically told Anthony Davis, “You take him.”
Davis staggered forward, stumbling on his own tired legs.
Curry held the ball at his side, rhythmically rocking his head side to side like the seconds hand on a grandfather clock.
5… 4… 3…
Soon enough, 2-0 lead.
Golden State ended Game 2 on a 9-1 run, taking a strong punch from the Pelicans and emerging with a 97-87 win.
“We were right there. We gave ourselves a chance,” Davis said. “But at the same time, we want to win a game. That’s all we’ve been talking about, is trying to get one on the road. And it’s tough when you’re battling like that.
“We know that we can beat this team.”
The Warriors’ 97 points were their fewest in more than three weeks and their fewest in a win since the All-Star break.
New Orleans successfully slowed the pace, contested shots and took Golden State out of its comfort zone. But, late, the Warriors seemingly realized they could play that style, too – and their depth allowed them to grind longer than the Pelicans.
Davis (26 points, 10 rebounds, three assists, two steals and two blocks) gave his all, but he just couldn’t keep up for all 45 of his minutes. With Davis struggling to even get up and down the floor, New Orleans fell apart.
In the last four-and-a-half minutes, the Pelicans made no shots, missed five, committed two turnovers and allowed three offensive rebounds in six opportunities. Even completing passes became difficult.
Earlier, though, Davis changed everything. He scored 10 first-quarter points – following his 20 fourth-quarter points in Game 1 – and attracted significant defensive attention. Davis wisely dished when the Warriors collapsed, and nobody benefited more than Eric Gordon, who finished with 23 points on 5-of-10 3-point shooting. Norris Cole (11 points) also made timely plays, and New Orleans led by as many as 13.
But the Warriors got enough splash with 26 points from Klay Thompson and 22 from Curry. Even Leandro Barbosa (12 points) had a stretch of lighting up the Pelicans.
Most importantly, Golden State’s league-best defense rose to the occasion. Andrew Bogut and Draymond Green had their fingerprints all over this one, and Green – who played 42 minutes – was tasked primarily with defending Davis, who shot 9-for-22.
“I ask Draymond if he’s tired, and if he says no, I leave him in. If he says yes, I leave him in,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “It’s a very scientific approach.”
New Orleans has probably had enough of how the Warriors do things in Oakland, where they’ve won 41 of 43 games this season behind an energetic crowd that showed up tonight. The only two teams to win there, San Antonio and Chicago (in overtime), are better than the Pelicans.
Good news for them: The series shifts to New Orleans for Game 3, and the Pelicans should have a better chance there.
If anyone has energy by Thursday.