The outcome of Friday night’s game hung in the balance, just waiting for either the Warriors or Pelicans to seize control. And it waited—and waited some more.
Then, right before it was about to die of old age, the Warriors, namely D’Angelo Russell, finally took over. One of his patented runners followed by a sidestep 3 tied the game up with a little over a minute to go, and then a dagger pull-up finally iced the game 106-102.
Russell led the way with 25 points and was a team leading plus-18, while taking over the team like so many have been clamoring for. He made all four of the Warriors field goals in the last five minutes of the game.
Steve Kerr said the fearlessness Russell shows is what allows him to be so successful:
“That’s who he is, that’s what he did last year in Brooklyn. He’s built in that way to close the game, because he’s not afraid to miss. That’s kind of what it takes to be able to hit big shots, you can’t worry about missing, and Dlo is never worried about that, he just goes out and plays.”
The score finished close, but it didn’t start that way, as the Warriors opened the game on a 27-8 run. It wasn’t pretty, it was actually chaotic, but they also forced the Pelicans into eight turnovers, which forced Alvin Gentry to burn three timeouts in the first quarter alone.
Those eight turnovers led directly to 12 Warriors points and allowed them to get out in transition, which is essentially the only time they are dangerous.
The Warriors defense had a field day against a bad Pelicans offense. Aside from forced turnovers, Golden State held New Orleans also held them to just 9-of-36 from deep. The one issue was that it seemed like every one of those 27 misses wound up back in the hands of New Orleans. The Pelicans pulled in 14 offensive rebounds and punished the usually strong rebounding Warriors.
But the steadying presence of Draymond Green and Russell helped keep the New Orleans run at bay.
Russell said he relied on advice from Kobe Bryant in how to stay poised and play the game within the game:
“Yeah man, experience is key in this league…Also I remember Kobe saying things like remember that shots going to be there at the end of the game. It’s just experience.”
Lee drew his third-straight start at shooting guard and continued to fill up the scoring column. He put up 20 on the Pelicans, which led the team for most of the contest. He’s broken double digits three of the last four games, and is averaging 14.5 points per game over that span.
Burks poured in 18 to go along with eight boards and four steals off the bench. Burks has now scored in double figures in 12 straight games and has been probably the most consistent Warriors player this season.
They are going to need to count on that scoring even more now that Eric Paschall is presumably out for a few games. The rookie left the game after the first quarter with a right knee injury after J.J. Redick rolled up on his legs from behind. It was just the second game back for Paschall after he missed two games with a hip injury.
Just when the Warriors finally get everyone healthy, someone else goes down again. This might actually work in the Warriors favor though as it could allow Kevon Looney to get some minutes to get back in game shape.
Looney got six minutes after Paschall went down and continues to look lost. But he’s going to need playing time to work it out, and it seems like he’ll be able to get some now.
Minutes for everyone is important, but Kerr said that wins are equally so, that it’s necessary for the development of this young team:
“I’ve said the last couple months that I think we’ve gotten better, we’ve made a lot of improvement individually, a lot of our young players are getting better and better. But it has to pay off in the win column now and then to keep their spirits up and keep them motivated.”
The Warriors won’t have to leave the Bay Area until after the holidays, with their next four games at home. Next up, Karl Anthony-Towns and the Timberwolves visit Chase Monday.
The Warriors shot 24-of-25 from the free throw line as a team, they are currently ranked third in the league in team free throw percentage with 80.7 percent. That included four clutch ones at the end where Lee and Green both swished two free throws each to put the game away.