With 21 seconds to go, Stephen Curry’s potential go-ahead 3-pointer clanked off the front of the rim and the Warriors fell to the New Orleans Pelicans 108-103 Tuesday night at Smoothie King Center.
In a back-and-forth game with 14 lead changes, Golden State (33-33) had a chance to steal a win in New Orleans but were ultimately bested by tired legs and a Pelicans team desperate to make the playoffs.
“I thought we were tired,” head coach Steve Kerr said. “I’m really proud of the guys, they battled the entire way, and clearly we were tired in the fourth.”
With the score tied at 92 early in the fourth quarter, Draymond Green blocked Zion Williamson’s layup, made a 3-pointer and found Kent Bazemore in the corner to give Golden State a three-point lead with 2:30 remaining on the second night of a back-to-back set in the Warriors’ final road game of the season.
But New Orleans responded as Lonzo Ball (33 points on 11 for 23 shooting) made his seventh 3-pointer of the game and a stepback jumper to give the Pelicans a 102-100 lead with 25.3 seconds left.
After Kerr’s timeout, Curry got the ball from Green on a handoff and launched a 3-pointer that hit the front of the rim. Backup guard Mychal Mulder failed to secure the offensive rebound, putting the final stamp on the loss. In all, the Warriors ran out of gas and the Pelicans closed out the game with a 27-10 run.
Curry had 37 points on 13 for 31 shooting (8 for 20 from 3-point range) and Andrew Wiggins had 26 points on 10-for-21 shooting (5 for 10 from 3-point range) but they did not get much scoring help as no other Warriors player broke double-digits.
For the Pelicans (30-26), Williamson finished with 23 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists. The Warriors implemented the same game plan they used in Monday night’s blowout win, opting to guard Williamson with one defender and force New Orleans’ shooters to win the game. After shooting just 20% on 3-pointers on Monday, on Tuesday they went 12 for 30 (40%) from 3-point range. The win keeps them within striking distance of the 10th-place Spurs, who are two games ahead for the final spot of the play-in tournament.
The loss drops the Warriors back to .500 but they are still in possession of the No. 8 seed in the play-in tournament before heading into the season-ending six-game homestand that begins Thursday against the Oklahoma City Thunder at Chase Center.
As Golden State evaluates this final trip, it will point to some good and some bad. The good is that the Warriors are still playing arguably the best basketball of the season, winning with small-ball (when they are not fatigued).
The bad is that they dropped two valuable games on a trip where their opponents had a combined record of 96-166. Had they gone 3-1 or even 4-0, they’d have a cushion in front of the Grizzlies and could be playing these next few games with a chance to host the seven-eight play-in game. But it shouldn’t come as a surprise that a team that has hovered around .500 all season is just that heading into the final stretch.
“So 2-2 is OK, it’s not what we expected,” Curry said. “But I like the vibe we have now in how we’re trying to play and the intensity we’re trying to come with every night, knowing we’re slowly getting closer and closer to the games that really matter.”
Updated playoff picture:
- Phoenix Suns (47-18)
- Utah Jazz (47-18)
- Denver Nuggets (43-22)
- LA Clippers (43-22)
- Dallas Mavericks (37-28)
- Los Angeles Lakers (37-28)Play-in tournament
- Portland Trail Blazers (36-29)
- Golden State Warriors (33-33)
- Memphis Grizzlies (32-32)
- San Antonio Spurs (31-33)Outside looking in
- New Orleans Pelicans (30-36)
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Author: Wes Goldberg