The Triumphant Return of Stephen Curry Sparks Warriors in Game Two, Win 121-116
After an incredibly dominant performance in Game One on Saturday, the Golden State Warriors (5-1) took on the New Orleans Pelicans (4-1) in Game Two of the Western Conference Semifinals. The Pelicans were looking to prove that their upset of the Portland Trail Blazers was not lighting in a bottle, but instead a sign that they are for real. The Warriors had a trick up their sleeves though, as Stephen Curry made his return to the lineup and played for the first time since March 23. He would be looking to “not suck” and get back into a rhythm to help his team get another Championship. Curry came off the bench while Andre Iguodala and Nick Young were still in the starting lineup, as was the case in Game One. The Warriors went on to win the game 121-116.
The Pelicans started the scoring in the first quarter with a dunk from Anthony Davis, but the Warriors quickly answered back with a nasty dunk from Andre Iguodala and a three from Kevin Durant. The Warriors looked slow and lethargic early, and Nick Young being on the floor instead of Stephen Curry certainly did not help. Young went 0-2 from three while committing a turnover and a foul in the opening minutes. He simply did not look good. Andre Iguodala looked solid in the first couple minutes, and nailed a three around the midway point of the quarter. The defense from the Warriors was lacking in the early going, and they gave up a couple open looks form beyond the arc to E'Twaun Moore and Rajon Rondo, who each hit a three. By the time the Warriors called their first timeout after six minutes, the Pelicans led 14-11. After the timeout, Coach Steve Kerr subbed out Nick Young for...Kevon Looney, and the Warriors continued to struggle, and so did us fans. Curry did make his return though, at around the four minute mark of the opening quarter, and promptly nailed his first three of the postseason. The Warriors offense looked like itself again. He then hit a nice layup from under the hoop to help the Warriors get some momentum going. The Pelicans were still getting some open shots and making them, and were benefitting from the Warriors overall sloppiness, which saw them commit five turnovers in the first 10 minutes of the game. Another timeout was called, but after that timeout, Stephen Curry came out firing, and nailed a three from the logo. He was doing a tremendous job of getting his teammates open looks, especially from deep, the problem was that they weren’t hitting them. The Pelicans weren’t shooting the ball particularly well, but they were making a lot of shots in the paint off of offensive rebounds and turnovers. In just four minutes of play, Stephen Curry was the leading scorer for the Warriors with eight points, while Andre Iguodala and Kevin Durant were behind him with five points each. Jrue Holiday was leading the Pelicans with eight points, and Rajon Rondo was behind him with seven of his own. As a team, the Warriors shot 42.3% from the floor and 40% from three, while the Pelicans shot 37.5% from the floor and 15.4% from deep. After the first quarter, the Pelicans led the Warriors 29-27.
The Pelicans scored first in the second quarter, but David West answered back for the Warriors with a dunk, and this was the beginning of the two teams trading baskets for the first three minutes. Klay Thompson hit a three, and Steph made another layup and a wide-open mid range jumper to bring ihs scoring total to 12 points in just seven minutes. The Pelicans were still getting whatever they wanted in the paint, and had 26 points from their in the first 15 minutes of action. Alvin Gentry called timeout after three minutes once he saw Stephen Curry was clearly still hot. After the timeout, the first player to score was Shaun Livingston with an emphatic dunk to tie the game, and then Klay hit a jumper to untie the game and force another timeout from Alvin Gentry. After the second timeout, Draymond Green extended the lead once again with another massive slam. Anthony Davis followed up Green’s slam with two quick buckets to tie the game again, and he forced Steve Kerr to call a timeout, the third timeout in six minutes. The Warriors closed out the quarter with their most well-known lineup, the Hamptons Five, and they re-took the lead on a buzzer-beating three from Klay Thompson at halftime. Prior to that three from Klay though, Draymond Green was able to throw down four dunks, and proceeded to yell in the face of every single player on the Pelicans over the course of the final four minutes of the quarter. Kevin Durant got into a roll, and began hitting his shots, which was an issue in the first quarter. Four different Warriors had at least 10 points at the half, Stephen Curry had 12, Kevin Durant had 11, while Draymond Green and Klay Thompson both had 10. The Pelicans were led by Jrue Holiday and Anthony Davis, who had 15 and 14 points, respectively. The Warriors still weren’t shooting the ball as well as they could, but they finished the half shooting 48.1% from the field and 28.6% from three. The Pelicans shot 43.6% from the field and just 20% from three. The only issue with the Pelicans was that they weren’t making the three, as they shot 57% from inside the arc. The Warriors turned the ball over eight times in the first half, while only forcing five from the Pelicans. Despite his last-second three and his 10 points, Klay Thompson did not have a good first half, and shot just 4/13, and missed several shots badly. At halftime, the Warriors led the Pelicans 58-55.
Kevin Durant opened the scoring in the third quarter with a dunk in transition, which Nick Young followed up with a three that hit nothing but the bottom of the net, and forced Alvin Gentry to call a timeout after just 90 seconds ran off the clock in the half. The Pelicans answered back with a 13-2 run to take a lead on an and-1 layup from Rajon Rondo. During the run, E'Twaun Moore hit two threes to help get the Pelicans going. Stephen Curry then re-entered the game and nailed his first shot of the half, a three, to tie the game once more. His three was the beginning of a 7-0 run, which ended on a jumper from Jrue Holiday from the free throw line. The Warriors were able to keep on scoring though, as they managed to draw some fouls and get to the line. Things started to get chippy between the two teams in the third quarter, with Draymond Green and Anthony Davis getting tangled up on the floor before Andre Iguodala got tackled while trying to make a layup. The Warriors built themselves a solid lead before the Pelicans were able to make a couple more shots in the paint and off of turnovers to get themselves within three points with just under three minutes left in the quarter. Both teams went shot-for-shot to close out the third quarter, and the game was tied with less than 30 seconds left, but David West untied the game with a dunk to give the Wariors a lead at the end of the quarter. Stephen Curry was still the leading scorer for the Warriors, and he made another incredible pull-up three en route to his game-high 25 points. Anthony Davis had 20 points to lead the Pelicans. As a team, the Warriors shot the ball at a 45.8% clip through three quarters, while the Pelicans shot 45% from the field. After three quarters, the Warriors led the Pelicans 88-86.
Draymond Green opened the fourth quarter with a three from the top of the arc, which he followed up with ANOTHER three from the exact same spot, forcing another early-quarter timeout from Alvin Gentry and the Pelicans. Coming out of the timeout, Jrue Holiday hit a three to get the Pelicans right back into the thick of it. The Warriors scored a couple more times thanks to Kevin Durant before the Pelicans got going again on a couple of easy buckets in the paint (where they had 58 points), cutting the Warrior lead to three points, and forcing a timeout from Steve Kerr. Durant nailed a jumper right after the timeout, but Anthony Davis answered right back with a basket of his own. After that, the Warriors took over. Andre Iguodala stole a pass and got a shooter’s roll on a dunk, which I didn’t know what possible, and then Kevin Durant got red-hot. Durant finished the game with 29 points, and he hit damn-near every shot he took in the fourth quarter. Stephen Curry hit the Dagger through, a perfect three to cap off a near-perfect return from injury. After Curry’s three, the Pelicans did make a couple shots, but the game was over, and they had no real shot at coming back. The Warriors beat the Pelicans 121-116.
The story of this game was Stephen Curry, who finished with 28 points on 8/15 shooting with seven rebounds, two assists, and three steals. He was simply remarkable, and had a game-high +/- of +26, which means that the Warriors outscored the Pelicans by 26 points when he was on the court. Steph was not the only Warrior with a great game though, as Draymond Green nearly had a triple-double in consecutive games. He finished with 20 points, 12 assists, and nine rebounds. Kevin Durant exploded in the fourth quarter and finished with 29 points, six rebounds, seven assists, two steals, and three blocks. Andre Iguodala and Klay Thompson both finished with over 10 points in the win. As a team, the Warriors finished the game shooting 47.3% from the floor and 32.5% from three. They had 36 assists to 17 turnovers, had 10 steals, and eight blocks.
The Pelicans showed some incredible resilience in the loss to the Warriors, and they did not quit until the final buzzer sounded, but they were still simply out-talented by the Warriors. Anthony Davis finished with 25 points, 15 rebounds, five assists, two steals, and three blocks. Jrue Holiday bounced back from a subpar Game One and scored 24 points, and even Rajon Rondo had 22 points. The Pelicans finished the game shooting 45.7% from the field and 35.1% from three. They had 12 steals and only four blocks in a losing effort to the Warriors.
The Western Conference Semifinals will continue with Game Three on Friday, May 4, in New Orleans at 5 p.m on ESPN.