ORACLE ARENA, OAKLAND, CA — Two nights after clinching the Western Conference No. 1 seed with a win at Phoenix coupled with a Spurs loss, the Golden State Warriors (65-14) were back at home to host the depleted and probably tanking New Orleans Pelicans (33-45).
The Warriors welcomed back Kevin Durant after missing 20 games with a left MCL sprain and tibial bone bruise, while Stephen Curry sat out with a left knee contusion suffered in the game against the Suns. Golden State was also without Kevon Looney (left hip strain) and Damian Jones was on D-League assignment.
The Pelicans were without Omer Asik (illness), DeMarcus Cousins (right Achilles tendonitis), Anthony Davis (left knee soreness), E’Twaun Moore (left ankle sprain), and Quincy Pondexter (left knee).
Q1: JaVale Spark
Durant didn’t take long to show Warriors fans what they had been missing, using an up-fake to bolt past Pelicans center Alexis Ajinca down the right baseline for a reverse right-hand jam:
Draymond Green added a “bully” inside move on the smaller Jrue Holiday on a switch after Golden State got the offensive rebound after a Green trey was off.
Klay Thompson added a triple from the right wing via Shaun Livingston, who started in place of Curry, laser pass in early offense, and the Warriors held an early 9-3 lead.
Holiday led a mini-comeback to 13-11, Golden State, and New Orleans took a momentary lead at 14-13 as Durant dribbled too much and threw away a bounce pass, and Donatas Motiejunas made him pay with a trey from the right arc.
Andre Iguodala came in and buried a three, then after a timeout, Matt Barnes lofted an alley-oop on a touch-pass to JaVale McGee, after McGee disrupted a Motiejunas drive:
Holiday made a bad pass that Barnes easily stole, then Iguodala took a turn at sending a laser to McGee for a two-hand smash to give the Warriors a 21-17 lead with 35 seconds remaining.
After JaVale disrupted another attack, this time by Holiday with Patrick McCaw in close pursuit, Iguodala wound down the clock, dribble from right to left and pulled up on one leg for a jumper at the buzzer:
The Warriors took a 23-17 lead into the second stanza.
Barnes got the Warriors off on the right foot, drilling a triple from Ian Clark, then Iguodala waltzed down the lane from the left wing for an easy dunk against minimal defense.
Thompson added an and-one drive against Ajinca, and the Warriors found themselves up, 31-19, with 10:39 to play.
But Barnes tweaked an ankle while tapping an offensive rebound back out, the Pelicans eventually scoring a run-out fast break layup as the Warriors forgot to call timeout after recovering a loose ball, then missing a shot. Head coach Steve Kerr eventually called timeout as Barnes limped quickly to the locker room, with the Warriors still up, 31-25, with 8:54 to go.
Out of the timeout, Golden State’s lead continued to dwindle, as Klay, Durant, and Iguodala all missed jumpers while Ajinca caught a lob from point guard Quinn Cook, then spun and drew an and-one on David West.
Draymond made a bad save of a loose ball at half court, Cook leapt and stole the ball, and scored on the break, drawing another and-one foul, this time on Green.
The Pelicans moved ahead, 34-31, before Clark hit a three, and “KD” and West hit jumpers.
Clark played give-and-go with McCaw, got a layup, then after a timeout, Livingston and Tim Frazier traded jumpers and the Warriors took a 42-40 lead into a timeout.
Later, Thompson got switched onto by Motiejunas, Klay spun with the shot clock winding down, and found a cutting Livingston at the last moment for a two-hand slam at the buzzer:
Motiejunas answered with a nice spin inside, Draymond hit a three over Dante Cunningham from up top, the ball rattling in, Klay drew free throws on an upfake that drew contact from Holiday, and Green hit another triple assisted this time by Durant.
Pelicans head coach Alvin Gentry called timeout with 52.9 seconds left, the Warriors sporting a 54-44 lead.
(Photo: @letsgowarriors Instagram account via @floydophone)