The Golden State Warriors have packed more outstanding moments in this season than we saw in the last 30 years combined, but nothing tops what we saw on Thursday night. After playing horribly for three quarters, the Warriors outscored the Pelicans 39-19 in the fourth quarter to send it to overtime, then held on in the extra period to win 123-119 and crush the hopes of all 10,000 people (give or take) who legitimately care about basketball in New Orleans.
“We’re all feeling like dirt right now,” said Pelicans head coach Monty Williams, who said he asked his team to foul at the end of regulation.
Fabulous shot of Steph Curry’s game-tying shot via Getty. Also: EYES CLOSED!?!?! pic.twitter.com/jTfpqDJhxl
— Will Brinson (@WillBrinson) April 24, 2015
INSTEAD, Stephen Curry hit a rainbow three from the corner to tie it, after he missed an earlier attempt with his foot on the line that Mo Speights fortunately was able to rebound … and before getting clubbed by Anthony Davis. The officiating in this game was curious, to put it lightly, and no foul was called. It didn’t matter. The Warriors had completed an epic comeback after several fans had left the Smoothie King Center, perhaps because an arena called the Smoothie King Center in a wild city like New Orleans means poor decision-making is inevitable. Just ask this guy:
Or Eric Gordon, who shot a 25-footer with 24 seconds left in overtime with the Pelicans down 119-118. But it seemed like there was no way New Orleans would win this game after the Warriors accomplished what the Pelicans came kind of close to doing in Game 1. They came fairly close, thanks to some more dubious officiating and 10 points by the Pelicans over a 1:34 stretch in overtime, but the Warriors escaped with a win they’ll look back on fondly for the rest of their days.
A nearly miraculous fourth quarter
Uh, what the hell happened?
First, the late, great Mac Dre may have said the Pelicans were “feeling themselves.” They’re a young, inexperienced team, their home arena was rocking, and they were dominating this game. In fact, this was one of those games where if the Warriors’ comeback fell short and they lost by two or three, the conversation would’ve been about how badly the No. 1 seed was outplayed throughout most of the contest. But all that matters in the playoffs are wins, and with all due respect to the 2007 squad, the Warriors believed during that fourth quarter.
They also committed no turnovers and grabbed 18 rebounds in that quarter to just seven for New Orleans. They went small but were still able to come up with 10(!) offensive rebounds, and Curry’s heroics wouldn’t have been possible without noteworthy contributions from several players in this historic win.
— Draymond Green was removed from this game early after a dubious second foul, and he fouled out on another ticky-tack call in overtime. But wowser, was he a force in the fourth quarter: seven rebounds (four offensive), five points and two steals, along with furious action on the defensive end to contain — and tire — Davis.
— Shaun Livingston flat-out saved this game. He played all but 15 seconds of the fourth quarter, going 4-for-5 with three offensive rebounds. If this series has taught Steve Kerr anything, it’s that he has to give the bench guys a shot in each game to see if they have it that particular night, because you just can’t close the book on anyone in the Warriors’ rotation.
— In effect Harrison Barnes was the power forward, as neither Andrew Bogut nor Festus Ezeli made an appearance in the fourth quarter. That’s probably where Barnes feels most comfortable, and he made 2-of-3 shots and grabbed two huge offensive rebounds of his own in that pivotal quarter.
— Leandro Barbosa showed that his Game 2 outburst was no fluke, chipping in six important points in four fourth quarter minutes.
— Davis missed the first of two free throws with a 107-105 lead and nine seconds left. That kind of helped.
When the best team in the NBA stunk like Bourbon Street at 4:30 am (quarters one, two and three)
It took three LOUSY quarters from the Warriors to set up this ridiculous comeback. It was disconcerting to see, as it appeared that everything we knew about this team was going up in smoke with every Davis dunk, Norris Cole drive and Ryan Anderson step-back jumper.
— A lot of credit has to go to Davis (shocker). Many poke fun at the “Pelicans” name, but it kind of suits a guy with a crazy-long wingspan who seems to inhale more than his fair share of points, rebounds and blocked shots. The Warriors are going to have nightmares about The Brow’s defensive prowess, long after this series is over.
(And it is over, by the way. You don’t come back from a 3-0 deficit in the NBA, especially when you’re the eighth seed and your coach says you feel like dirt.)
— I thought Anderson was hurt! He’s been awful for a while, but maybe he flew abroad during the long break between Game 2 and 3 and got some German blood therapy. Or, more likely, he’s a fantastic shooter who got hot. It happens.
— I’m one of the biggest Andre Iguodala backers around, but he gave the Warriors nothing all night. Speights grabbed the biggest rebound of the game to salvage an awful (1-for-7) shooting night.
What it all means
Geez, I don’t know. Even Steve Kerr said afterward that he needed to watch the tape to figure out exactly how the Warriors won this game. It would seem to mean that the Warriors have taken perhaps the most important step for any championship contender — it’s not enough to believe you can do something, you have to actually do it.
“We have a hustler’s mentality. We fight to the end,” said Green. “Throughout the entire fourth quarter we kept saying, ‘There’s a lot of time left, fellas. There’s a lot of time. Keep fighting, keep grinding, and do what we do.’ I think the first three and a half quarters, we weren’t us.”
Since Green sounded just like his coach with those last three words, maybe this means the Warriors learned a lesson. Because they tried winning this game via some lazy way that wasn’t truly theirs for a while, with energy conservation appearing to be the defensive goal. After jumping out to an early lead in the first quarter, the Warriors did a lot of dribbling and more often than not chucked shots that weren’t in rhythm. Ball-movement was an afterthought. Luckily they snapped out of it early enough to make a little history (only two other times have teams come back from a 20-point deficit heading into the fourth quarter in the playoffs).
This win also means that Curry’s MVP award is going to make even more sense than before. And while Green has gotten so much praise and attention — especially in light of his second place finish in the Defensive Player of the Year voting (despite getting more first place votes than the winner, Kawhi Leonard) — Klay Thompson’s stamina and silent determination can’t go unmentioned.
Thompson lost his shooting touch in the second half and overtime, but without his five threes and 17 points in the first half, the Warriors would’ve been buried before the third quarter started. Thompson led the Warriors in minutes played with 46 (45:59 to be exact, 16 fewer seconds than Davis) and followed an excellent performance in Game 2 with the kind of steady game the Warriors needed desperately. He also grabbed the game-sealing defensive rebound with six seconds left in overtime.
— What’s up with Scott Foster? That call against Thompson in OT (the so-called intentional foul off the ball) was so bad that it made you want to make terrible Tim Donaghy jokes. Not a good look for the NBA, although there were bad calls on both sides.
— On that note, it feels like it wasn’t a coincidence that the Warriors looked so ragged at a time when they were flopping more often and more egregiously than any time I can remember. It worked, but … c’mon.
— Here’s when everyone, including the fans in Nola, knew the Warriors were winning this game: Curry’s excellent pass that led to Bogut’s twisting two-handed dunk in overtime.
— I love so many things about this screenshot, starting with the reactions from the Warriors fans behind middle finger guy.
— Curry had one of those James Harden kind of stat lines: 10-for-29 from the field, 13-of-14 from the line, 40 points, nine assists, five rebounds. I guess now we finally know what a real MVP looks like, right Houston?
— Can the Warriors play a dominant first half and bury this team on Saturday? It’s not like this phenomenon is unique to the Warriors — the “Big Three” Miami Heat and Shaq/Kobe Lakers were known for letting teams stay in games as well. But the Warriors are dancing a tightrope here with difficult games against a team that has an all-time great who’s just beginning to figure out this whole playoff thing. Best to keep Davis from gaining any more than one game of postseason experience before next season rolls around.