Stephen Curry elicited gasps from the New Orleans crowd with a pair of deep 3s in the first quarter that put the Warriors up by 20 and increased his point total to 17 — all in the first quarter.
Curry’s early surge was just the start of a 41-point outing. Golden State took a big step toward securing a postseason berth with a 123-108 victory over the desperate Pelicans on Monday night, led by Draymond Green’s 10 points, 15 assists, and 13 rebounds.
“It’s just a matter of staying in the moment, enjoying what I get to do, having the utmost confidence in what I can do out on the floor and just enjoying the challenge because I know I’ve got to play well for us to be who we want to be this year,” Curry said. “We’re trying to make this season mean something down the stretch.”
With seven games remaining, the Warriors, who currently hold a Western Conference play-in spot, moved four games ahead of 11th-place New Orleans. However, these teams will meet twice more, providing the Pelicans with a glimmer of hope if they can figure out how to contain Curry.
How the Pelicans respond will “show what kind of character we have as a team,” according to Zion Williamson.
The Pelicans appeared enthralled by the Warriors star as he dribbled around the perimeter before launching 3-pointers or initiating deft drives to the basket. His eight 3s included a 30 foot pull-up.
“Everywhere he runs on the floor, with or without the ball, teams are terrified,” Green said. “The guy can take over a game and make it hard for any team in the NBA on any given night.”
Golden State was led by Andrew Wiggins, who scored 26 points, 10 of which came during a crucial stretch in the fourth quarter.
For the Pelicans, who trailed by as many as 25 points in the first half of a game they desperately needed to win, Williamson scored 32 points and Brandon Ingram added 19 points.
Willy Hernangomez’s short hook made it 79-73 with nearly five minutes left in the third quarter, bringing New Orleans within six points.
That’s when Curry led another Warriors surge, highlighted by a step-back 3 from 28 feet that put the Warriors up 92-76.
Despite resting Curry and Green early in the fourth quarter, New Orleans struggled to close the gap. Wiggins scored the first ten points for Golden State, hitting a pair of three-pointers and a leaning, left-handed layup before tumbling across the baseline.
“Obviously, we were trying to get Steph some rest and Draymond some rest,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “We needed buckets and Andrew got three or four big ones to keep them at bay.”
Curry then came back in and hit his final three of the night to make it 108-90.
Curry scored 21 points in the first half, including three three-pointers, to help Golden State take a 39-19 lead.
“The game was basically decided in the first quarter,” Pelicans coach Stan Van Gundy said. “It’s frustrating in a big game like that to come out in the first quarter and play as poorly as we did.”
Jordan Pool’s three-pointer made it 58-33 before the Pelicans closed the half on a 19-6 run that included Eric Bledsoe’s double-pump pull-up from the top of the key while being fouled from behind and Ball’s right wing 3 at the horn.
The Pelicans gained hope after the Warriors’ lead was cut to 66-54. That is, until Curry put a stop to it.