Warriors flip the script on Pelicans with adjustments, firepower

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NEW ORLEANS — The Golden State Warriors made Game 4 of the Western Conference semifinal series against the New Orleans Pelicans a nearly complete reversal of Game 3.

The Smoothie King Center was the site of both games, but little else was the same.

In Game 3 on Friday the Pelicans took the lead for good midway through the first quarter, stymied repeated mini-runs by the Warriors and led by as many as 26 on their way to a 119-110 victory.

In Game 4 on Sunday afternoon, the Warriors took the lead for good early in the first quarter, stymied several mini-runs by the Pelicans and led by as many as 26 on their way to a 118-92 victory.

“I told you right from the start, you’re not going to beat them if you’re not going to score 115 points,” New Orleans coach Alvin Gentry said. “I don’t care how good your defense is. I don’t care what you do, you have to be able to score 110-115 points to have any chance to beat them.”

After the defending NBA champions beat New Orleans twice in Oakland to start the Western Conference semifinal playoff series, the Pelicans sent a message with their victory in Game 3.

The Warriors got the message: New Orleans was here to compete and was capable of extending this series longer than Golden State wants as it tries to win its third title in four years.

Now Golden State can end the series and advance to the conference finals when it hosts Game 5 on Tuesday.

“The effort on both ends tonight was night and day from Game 3,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said, “and I thought our guys were just dialed in.”

New Orleans will have to prevail in Oracle Arena, where it lost Game 1 by 22 points and Game two by five, in order to extend its season and play Game 6 at home on Thursday.

“That’s as far as we need to look,” Gentry said.

One big difference from Game 3 to Game 4 was that Golden State didn’t double Anthony Davis as much, satisfied to challenge his teammates to make them pay for it.

Nikola Mirotic made 6-of-12 shots and 3-of-5 3-pointers on Friday, but made 1-of-7 and missed both of his 3-pointers on Sunday.

Ian Clark made 7-of-11 shots and 3-of-5 3-pointers on Friday, but made 4-of-14 and missed all seven 3-pointers on Sunday.

Overall, New Orleans shot just 36.4 percent (32-of-88) and made a season-low four 3-pointers on 26 attempts (15.4 percent).

“(The Warriors) had a lot to do with that,” Gentry said. “We didn’t have the looks that we normally do, and we struggled at the start.”

Davis didn’t take advantage of the reduced attention from the defense. He made 15-of-27 shots on Friday, but on Sunday he made just 8-of-22 and missed all three of his 3-pointers.

“It is tough to win like that when you are shooting that poorly from the field and they are making shots,” Davis said.

Davis did make all 10 of his free-throw attempts as the Pelicans had their best game at the line in the series. Through three games, the Warriors had shot 85 free throws and the Pelicans had shot 32. On Sunday, New Orleans made 24-of-30 and Golden State made 15-of-18.

Kerr changed his starting lineup Sunday, going for the first time this season with a small group comprised of Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Andre Iguodala, Kevin Durant and Draymond Green as the 6-foot-6 started in place of 7-footer JaVale McGee, who had started Friday. It’s a group that tends to play the most minutes for the Warriors.

“Anytime we’ve been in any danger over the years,” Kerr said, “we’ve sort of gone to this lineup.”

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Les East

Les East

CCS/106.1 FM/Daily Iberian

Les East is a nationally renowned freelance journalist. The New Orleans area native’s blog on SportsNOLA.com was named “Best Sports Blog” in 2016 by the Press Club of New Orleans. For 2013 he was named top sports columnist in the United States by the Society of Professional Journalists. He has since become a valued contributor for CCS. The Jesuit High…

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