Warriors overcome 20 point deficit to hand Pelicans another loss
NEW ORLEANS — For 24 minutes, the New Orleans Pelicans minus Anthony Davis looked as if they were going to secure their most surprising victory of the season.
For 24 minutes, the Pelicans looked fluid on offense. They shared the basketball. They shot the ball as well as they could and they defended with intensity and purpose.
For 24 minutes, they frustrated and dominated the defending champion Golden State Warriors.
Unfortunately for the Pelicans, NBA basketball games are 48 minutes.
Over the final 24 minutes New Orleans was outscored 76-46, as the Warriors rallied from a 20-point halftime deficit to beat the Pelicans 125-115. It was Golden State’s 20th victory in the last 21 meetings between the two teams, including three straight this season and 10 straight overall.
Jrue Holiday led all scorers with a season-high tying 34 points in the loss. Steph Curry had 31 points and 11 assists for the Warriors before leaving the game late with an ankle injury.
In all three games the Pelicans have had double-digit leads over the Warriors, but have gone on to lose those contests by an average of 11 points per game.
“As bad as this loss is, and I don’t look at anything as a moral victory,” said Head Coach Alvin Gentry, “what we keep proving is that we have the ability to play extended minutes with the world champs. Now what we have to do as a team is that we have to now find a way to not do it for 32 minutes or 36 minutes, but we got to do it for 48.”
While few would have given the Pelicans a chance against the Warriors prior to tip-off, the Pelicans had Golden State on the ropes after racing out to a 69-49 halftime lead.
“The thing that we talked the guys when we left the locker room (before the third quarter) was that obviously we felt that they would make a run to get back in the game, but what it can’t be is a run of 20-2 or 25-3 run or something like that,” said Gentry.
“We talked about starting the third quarter the way we started the game, and you’ve got to do that with force and with hard cuts, because obviously the defensive intensity is going to get turned up and our execution has to match that.”
But it didn’t. Golden State has been the best team in the NBA in the third quarter, averaging better than 32 points. Monday night, they scored 39.
The Warriors opened the second half with a 15-0 run, cutting the Pelicans’ lead to five in under four minutes. New Orleans missed its first six shots and committed two turnovers during that time.
Golden State continued to chip away, even as the Pelicans started to regain their offensive rhythm. E’Twaun Moore made back-to-back baskets to push the lead back to eight at the 5:47 mark. Moore would finish the game with a career-high 27 points.
The Warriors would get as close as two points after Steph Curry’s free throw following a DeMarcus Cousins technical foul, but the Pelicans momentarily stemmed the tide. With New Orleans up 85-80 with 2:38 remaining in the third, Jrue Holiday connected on a pair of three pointers to extend the Pelicans’ advantage back to double digits at 91-80. However, the Warriors would score the final eight points in the period. The Pelicans stumbled into the fourth quarter up 91-88.
Golden State took its first lead of the game at 96-95 after an 8-4 opening spurt capped by a steal and dunk by Andre Iguodala. There would be six lead changes over the next four minutes until the Warriors took over for good, 107-105, on a Nick Young basket from long distance.
It would get worse. Trailing 120-110 with just over a minute to play, Cousins and Kevin Durant got into a verbal confrontation in front of the Pelicans’ bench. It quickly escalated, with both players receiving their second technical fouls of the game and being ejected. The two had to be separated by security as Cousins attempted to get to Durant before being escorted off the floor.
There were six technical fouls called between the two teams, with Draymond Green earning one in the first half, and the Warriors receiving another for a defensive three-second violation. Between the two teams, there have been 10 technicals assessed over the three games played this season.
After the game, the bad blood continued to boil as Cousins tried to confront Durant in the tunnel between the teams’ locker rooms, but was led away by Pelicans staffers.
Cousins’ meltdown seemed to have been coming all game long as he played one of his worst games of the season. He ended the night with 19 points, 11 rebounds, and seven assists, but also committed seven turnovers (his 13th game with at least six turnovers) and finished with a +/- of -32. It was a stark contrast to his performance against the Trail Blazers on Saturday. Cousins also now leads the NBA with eight technical fouls this season.
He had 18 during the 2016-17 season.
“He’s got to be able to understand that when teams can’t physically play against him, they’re going to do everything they can to try to emotionally get him off his game,” said Gentry. “Hopefully, he’s going to get better at it, because obviously we don’t want him suspended.”
The lack of composure by Cousins was simply the worst manifestation of the entire team’s lack of composure during the second half. New Orleans turned the ball over 21 times, as many as they had in the last two games combined. The Pelicans’ ball movement stagnated and their shot selection was questionable to say the least.
Defensively, New Orleans allowed Golden State to shoot 52 percent from the floor and the Warriors dominated in transition, outscoring the Pelicans 35-20 on the fast break.
“I feel like we let them back into the game too easy,” said Moore. “We didn’t get enough stops.”
This was a game that the New Orleans Pelicans could have won, a game that they should have won, A.D. or no A.D. But the team’s Jekyll and Hyde ways dropped the team back to 12-12 and once again under .500 at home.
New Orleans is 4-6 over its last 10 games and the schedule seemingly only gets harder from here. Over the next two weeks the Pelicans play Denver twice, Philadelphia, Houston, Milwaukee, and Washington; each a legitimate playoff contender.
Weathering this stretch, with or without the services of Davis, is a must if the Pelicans are to be considered legitimate as well.
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David Grubb has more than a decade of experience in the sports industry. He began his career with KLAX-TV in Alexandria, La. and followed that up with a stint as an reporter and anchor with WGGB-TV in Springfield, Mass. After spending a few years away from the industry, David worked as sports information director for Southern University at New Orleans…