Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: the Pelicans had a big lead early on the Golden State Warriors, only to run out of gas in the second half, resulting in a frustrating shoulda coulda woulda loss.
If that sounds familiar, it should, because for the third time in 24 games, the New Orleans Pelicans followed an eerily similar script that cost them the previous two games with the Warriors at home on October 20 and inside Oracle Arena on November 25.
For a second consecutive night, the Pelicans were without Anthony Davis, but through much of the first half New Orleans didn’t miss a beat. The Pelicans had a seven-point lead after the first quarter, and then pushed it to as many as 20 points by the end of the half.
Jrue Holiday was the catalyst with 23 glorious points, but the three ball was kind to New Orleans in the first two quarters: E’Twaun Moore had three and Holiday, DeMarcus Cousins and Rajon Rondo each had a pair. And if the early three point shooting was good, it was nothing compared to picturesque ball movement New Orleans showed. The Pelicans, second only to Golden State in assists per game on the season, had 20 on 27 made baskets at intermission. Between the ball movement and the three point shooting, New Orleans was out Warrior-ing the Warriors.
Then the second half started.
A 20-point halftime deficit was cut to five in what felt like a blink. Golden State opened the third quarter scoring the first 15 points in less than a four minute span and suddenly it was game on.
Stephen Curry had 15 of his 31 points in the third quarter. Of the five threes hit all night, four came in that game-altering third quarter. Klay Thompson and Kevin Durant each had eight points while Draymond Green did Draymond Green things: three points, four rebounds, and had an assist, steal and block.
Conversely, the Pelicans shooting was virtually absent for the third quarter. As a team, New Orleans only had nine made baskets and shot 33 percent in the frame. Despite being outscored by 17, New Orleans still held on to their lead heading to the fourth, something David Wesley mentioned several times would be critical for New Orleans.
Alas, New Orleans’ defense, having just allowed Golden State to score 39 points in the third, yielded again and gave up 37 in the final frame. In a quarter that was more back and forth than the finalbox score would indicate, New Orleans seemed like they could absorb every one of Golden State’s counter-punches. ESPN’s win probability gave New Orleans a 63 percent chance with as little as five minutes remaining before the Warriors gave one final push.
The loss drops New Orleans back down to .500 at 12-12, though they’re still sitting a game up on Oklahoma City for the eight seed. The loss also brings New Orleans to 0-3 against the Warriors this year, and if we go back a few seasons, Golden State has now won 20 of the last 21 games against the Pelicans.
New Orleans returns to the court Wednesday night against the Denver Nuggets, who, if you forgot, scored 140+ the last time the two teams met.
- Even though it was a 10-point loss, the game was fairly close. New Orleans and Golden State hit the same amount of shots and three pointers, the Warriors were just slightly more efficient than the Pelicans percent wise.
- Golden State had 12 more free throw attempts than New Orleans. On one specific instance, Tony Allen fouled Curry on successive possessions, giving the sharp shooter four free throws in a matter of seconds.
- Jrue Holiday finished tonight’s game with 34 points, tying a season high, but only 11 came in the second half.
- Jrue’s two backcourt running mates, E’Twaun Moore and Rajon Rondo, had solid nights themselves. Moore had 27 points and knocked down five three pointers, while Rondo had 10 points and 11 assists, his third consecutive double-double.
- The DeMarcus Cousins effort tonight was a mixed bag, and not quite what New Orleans needed to get the win. Cousins had 19 points, 11 rebounds, seven assists, five steals and three blocks which was all good, but it never felt like Cousins dominated as much as his stats say he did. His seven turnovers hurt a lot and there were times his effort cost the Pelicans points on the defensive end — especially when trying to get out to GSW perimeter shooters.
- Which is nothing compared to getting ejected from the game. Cousins and Durant got tangled up with about a minute and a half to play and started jawing at each other. Both players were tossed as it was their second technical fouls each.
DURANT VS. BOOGIE— Pettywise (@World_Wide_Wob) December 5, 2017
Everyone get off the damn court LET THEM DANCE pic.twitter.com/Xi1LNVv5OK
- Dante Cunningham contributed positively tonight with 11 points and nine rebounds. Going back to the Portland game from Saturday, Cunningham’s got 21 rebounds the past two games and his activity has been noticeably stronger.
- Klay Thompson continues to be a Pelican killer. Thompson’s 22 points was second to Curry, but it always feels like Thompson’s buckets come at the most devastating moments.
- With less than a minute to go in regulation, Curry suffered a sprained ankle. X-rays came back negative, but he left the game on crutches and is scheduled to have an MRI tomorrow.
ohhhh no no no no no.... Stephen Curry suffered an ankle injury... pic.twitter.com/GZ2c7NbNWw— Def Pen Hoops (@DefPenHoops) December 5, 2017
- And finally if you’ll allow me to be selfish for a moment, tonight wasn’t a complete loss basketball wise for me personally. Big time shoutout to Denham Springs Junior High’s girls and boys basketball teams for their win over Albany tonight. I taught there last year and some of my students play on the girls team — and that’s awesome because I’m super proud of y’all.