Durant's 41 not enough to Overcome 17 Turnovers in 126-120 Loss to New Orleans
After a very disappointing loss to the Indiana Pacers on Thursday, the Golden State Warriors (57-22) returned home to face the New Orleans Pelicans (45-34). The Pelicans, who are in the midst of an intense battle for playoff seeding with more than five other teams in the Western Conference, were desperately looking to beat the Warriors for the first time this season. The Warriors, who are firmly entrenched in the second seed, were looking to finish the season on a three-game winning streak and win at least 60 games for the fourth-straight season. While fighting for 60 wins, the Warriors would also be experimenting with new lineups and new rotations that could prove to be very important in the postseason, and these rotations would incorporate Damian Jones, who had an impressive game against the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Pelicans beat the Warriors 126-120.
The Pelicans came out in the first quarter with their guns blazing, and hit their first nine shots. They were hitting absolutely everything at the time of the first timeout. After about six minutes, the Pelicans were 10/12 from the field, and 4/5 from three. Nikola Mirotic hit several big shots en roue to eight early points, and Anthony Davis had seven points of his own. The Warriors were also shooting the ball well, just not as well, going 9/13 from the field and 2/3 from three. Quinn Cook was perfect for the Warriors, going 4/4 for nine points in the first six minutes. Kevin Durant was also very good early, posting seven quick points, and hitting one of the team’s two threes by the first timeout. As the quarter went on, both teams continued to score at an incredible rate, but the Pelicans were still scoring more than the Warriors. What stood out about the Pelicans offense was that they were getting everyone involved, which played a big part in their ability to keep the scoring going, whereas the Warriors offense broke down into a lot of isoball as the quarter progressed. Anthony Davis had a huge quarter for the Pelicans with 13 points, and Nikola Mirotic also had 11 points. Rajon Rondo hit two threes in the quarter, and had eight points. Kevin Durant and Quinn Cook both had nine points for the Warriors, which led the team. Klay Thompson was the next-highest scorer with seven points. After the first quarter, the Pelicans led the Warriors 40-32.
The offensive barrage of the Pelicans continued into the beginning of the second quarter. They were rolling early, but they were also playing very solid defense on the Warriors, which allowed them to grab their biggest lead of the game at 11 points. Nikola Mirotic still had the hottest hand for the Pelicans, at least in the beginning of the quarter, and by halftime he had 18 points on 7/12 shooting. Anthony Davis took over for the Pelicans late in the quarter, and ended the half with 19 points on 9/14 shooting. Around halfway through the quarter, the Warriors were able to get rolling and make a comeback. Andre Iguodala came back into the game after missing the last five games, and was doing a very good job as a distributor, finding Draymond several times around the basket. Nick Young’s shot was falling all quarter, and he had eight points in the half. The player who was doing the most scoring for the Warriors was Quinn Cook, the Sous Chef. He had 15 points on 6/9 shooting, and made several open threes that were key in the Warriors runs to cut into the lead. Both teams did cool off significantly by the time the half came to a close, and as a team, the Pelicans were shooting 59.6% from the field and 46.7% from beyond the arc. The Warriors were shooting a combined 57.4% and 43.7% from three. At the half, the Pelicans led the Warriors 67-65.
The Warriors came all the way back in the third quarter, and were playing great on both sides of the ball. Kevin Durant took over on offense, and scored a team-high 30 points after the quarter ended. He was playing in isolation on Nikola Mirotic, and it was clear that Durant is now a huge fan of his. Quinn Cook continued his spectacular night, hitting a couple open threes and ended the quarter with 21 points. Anthony Davis was the leading scorer for the Pelicans with 25 points, and he was carrying the load for the Pelicans in the third. As a team, the Pelicans were shooting 53.8% from the floor and 42.1% from three. The Warriors were shooting 54.3% from the floro and 43.5% from three. The Warriors took their first lead of the night, and led the Pelicans 92-88.
After not scoring in the third quarter, Klay Thompson opened up the fourth quarter with a three pointer. He then hit two more before the Warriors called a timeout with just under seven minutes left in the game. Regardless of Klay’s explosion, the Pelicans were able to come back and tie the game at 105 right before the timeout. The Pelicans were able to take advantage of some sloppy play from the Warrior down the stretch and retake the lead. With just under four minutes left in the quarter, the Warriors had 15 turnovers, and many of those came in the fourth quarter. Nikola Mirotic was able to punish the Warriors on one of those turnovers with a deep three, and the Pelicans were making an exceptional effort to make sure that they remained in the playoffs when the game ended. The Warriors were not done though, they cut the lead to two points with one minute left in the game. After cutting the lead to two points, the Warriors got a stop, but then Rajon Rondo picked Kevin Durant’s pocket and that turned into a basket for E'Twaun Moore, which put the Pelicans back up by four. The Warriors committed eight turnovers in the fourth quarter. That turnover by KD essentially ended the game for the Warriors, and the Pelicans playoff hopes got even more legitimate than they already were. The Pelicans beat the Warriors 126-120.
This loss for the Warriors can really be boiled down to two key factors: defense and turnovers. The Warriors are the best shooting team in the NBA, but the Pelicans are second, and if you let the second-best shooting team in the league put up 126 points on 56.3% shooting, you are going to lose that game 99 times out of 100. While at times they did play decent defense, they really faltered down the stretch and a big part of the poor defense was that the Pelicans had a numbers advantage due to the exceptionally high amount of turnovers. The Warriors turned the ball over 17 times in tonight’s game, and eight of those turnovers came in the fourth quarter, which let the Pelicans come back and win the game.
Kevin Durant was the leading scorer for the Warriors in tonight’s game, finishing with 41 points on 16/26 shooting with 10 rebounds and five assists. He also had four turnovers though, including two crucial turnovers down the stretch in the fourth quarter. The Warriors have lost all five of Durant’s highest scoring games this season. Quinn Cook had himself an incredible game, and he finished with 21 points on 8/14 shooting. Klay Thompson was the third-highest scorer with 18 points, and he hit three threes in the fourth quarter to help keep the Warriors in the game. Anthony Davis was the leading scorer for the Pelicans with 34 points on 13/24 shooting, while also grabbing 12 boards, dishing out four assists, blocking four shots, and getting two steals. Nikola Mirotic had 28 points and Jrue Holiday had 25 points. The Pelicans had five different players with at least 10 points, and so did the Warriors.
There was one player in particular who wasn’t great for the Warriors tonight, and his name is Nick Young. His +/- was a game-low of -21. He did have eight points, but he was not playing great defense and wasn’t making good passes. Normally the Warriors can make up for that, or sit him on the bench, but they can’t do that right now because of their lack of depth due to injuries. So, all in all, it isn’t that big of a deal for now, because several key players will be back for the playoffs and Quinn Cook’s ability to score from beyond the arc makes Nick Young’s ability to shoot not as important.
With the win tonight, the Pelicans have put themselves in a much better position in terms of making the playoffs, and they might have the best chance of any of the remaining teams to make it to the top-four seed that will be coveted by all the teams that are battling for seeding in the West.
The Warriors play next on Sunday, April 8, in Arizona against the Phoenix Suns at 6:00 p.m.