After a Herb Jones’ lay-in, the Pelicans had a 94-84 lead with 1:27 remaining in regulation. By all accounts, the game appeared all but over. However, the Warriors reeled off seven consecutive points in about a 20-second span to cut the deficit to a single possession. On three separate occasions, a Warriors’ 3 could have knotted the score. But the Pelicans held fast, managing to hang on for their first win of 2022.
Brandon Ingram found the special sauce, despite being hounded by a variety of Golden State defenses that exclusively focused on slowing him down. He broke out of a two-game shooting funk with 32 points on 12-20 shooting from the field.
“You could tell from the start of the game that he was playing at a different pace,” Willie Green said in postgame. “He was aggressive, and he had intention. He knew where he wanted to get, and he got to his spots and jumped up and shot the ball. He got to the free throw line. It just took him a couple games to get back in rhythm.”
Ingram also added 11 rebounds and six assists. His 19-point first half kept New Orleans within striking distance after the offense had dug themselves quite a deep hole.
Nearly four minutes into the second quarter, the Pelicans were sitting on 20 points. The team had missed makable shots. There were also a few rim-outs. They had some bad turnovers. They just couldn’t establish any rhythm.
Fortunately, the Warriors weren’t running away with the game.
With Stephen Curry (left quad) and Draymond Green (rest) out, and Herb spearheading the defense — he set a new career-high with five steals and made life plain miserable for Jordan Poole for nearly all of the contest, New Orleans didn’t require fireworks on offense to turn the tide. And that’s become their calling card this season: Grinding harder than the opponent regardless of the score.
The Pelicans have gone 11-9 in their last 20 games, but first quarters are usually putting them behind the eight ball. They have the 2nd worst net rating (-16.6) in the league after the first 12 minutes since November 24. They’ve trailed in 15 of those games heading into the second quarter but have flipped seven of those deficits into victories.
“This is a resilient group,” Green said. “They’ve been doing it all season. We started the year, I think, 1-11. So more importantly, having them understand that we’re going to go through some adversity, hit some bumps in the road, but we’re going to stay together. We’re going to keep grinding, put our heads down and keep working. And there’s no difference when we get down in the first quarter. We just stay together, stay poised, and go out and execute.”
New Orleans certainly worked hard for every point while neutralizing Golden State on the other end. The Pelicans and Warriors combined to make just 15 of 67 3-pointers. That comes out to a dismal 22.4%. New Orleans’ second 3-ball didn’t drop until Gary Clark rattled one in just before halftime.
Clark accounted for three of the Pelicans’ eight made threes, actually, and finished with 10 points and seven rebounds in 16 minutes of action. He also had a huge block inside the final minute of the game.
Willie Green put Gary Clark at the 5 late in the game to switch everything. Clark blocked Jordan Poole.— Christian Clark (@cclark_13) January 7, 2022
“My rookie year, there were a lot of times where I was the guy getting picked on as far as putting me in the pick and roll," Clark said. pic.twitter.com/13hnE7YTuw
Josh Hart had 14 points, six rebounds and two assists. In addition to his five steals, Jones also posted 13 points, six rebounds and two assists.
The Pelicans did a solid job of getting to the free throw line, finding the bonus early in the second and third quarters, and converting their attempts (23-29).
The Warriors were led by Andrew Wiggins’ 21 points, with rookie Jonathan Kuminga adding 13 points and six rebounds.
Up next, the Pelicans fly to Toronto to take on the Raptors on Sunday.