Staring at a back-to-back road set against another team chasing a play-in tournament berth, the Warriors came out with a vengeance Monday and hung on for a 123-108 win over the Pelicans at Smoothie King Center in New Orleans.
Stephen Curry poured in a game-high 41 points, reaching the 30-point mark for the 16th time in 18 games. Andrew Wiggins tossed in 26 and Juan Toscano-Anderson came off the bench to finish with 14.
Draymond Green earned his fifth triple-double of the season, finishing with 10 points, 13 rebounds and 15 assists.
With the Warriors (33-32) entering the game in ninth place, a full three games ahead of 11th-place New Orleans (29-36), the victory pushes the cushion to four games.
Here are three observations from a game that pushed the Warriors above .500 for the second time in the last six weeks:
The Steph Show
There was no waiting around this time. After a forgettable first half two nights ago in Houston, Curry blasted out from the start against the Pelicans.
The top scorer in the NBA took 10 shots in the first quarter, making six. He launched seven triples, draining three. He scored 17 points, while the Pelicans totaled 21.
Curry’s 41 points came on 14-of-26 shooting from the field, including 8-of-18 from distance. He added eight assists and four rebounds.
This was Curry’s ninth game with at least 40 points, and his sixth in the last 15 games. He’s now up to 298 3-pointers this season.
So continues Curry’s longshot attempt to wrest the MVP award away from Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic, by consensus the lead candidate.
Wiggins fills a needed void
With the Warriors taking a 95-80 lead after three quarters and Curry opening the fourth on the bench, the Warriors needed someone to provide offense until he returned.
In a little more than three minutes, the Warriors scored 10 points – all by Wiggins. He unleashed the full complement of his shooting arsenal, scoring through drives, mid-range jumpers and 3-pointers.
By the time Curry returned with 8:06 left in the game, a couple minutes earlier than usual, the Warriors had maintained the a 15-point lead.
Wiggins’ scoring was particularly crucial, as Jordan Poole, who scored nine points in the first half, missed his first three shots of the quarter before being replaced by Curry.
Defense sets the tone
The first half defense was terrific, at times spectacular. Though Williamson was efficient, most of his teammates struggled with Golden State’s hyperactivity on that end.
The Warriors set a tone early, forcing six first-quarter turnovers in the first quarter and converting them into 15 points.
Though the aggression waned over the final three quarters, allowing the Pelicans trim a 25-point deficit to seven in the third quarter, the Warriors rode their early energy to success.
Pelicans point guard Lonzo Ball had a particularly miserable shooting night, scoring seven points on 3-of-18 shooting.