The Warriors walked all over the New Orleans for much the opening game of their first-round playoff matchup.
But the Warriors were forced to hold off a fourth-quarter surge led by New Orleans star Anthony Davis to seal a 106-99 victory and take a 1-0 lead in the best-of-seven series.
Stepping on the gas early, the Warriors went on a 14-1 run in the opening quarter and held New Orleans to just 23 percent shooting for a 15-point lead at end of the first.
New Orleans head coach Monty Williams emphasized needing to have a strong first quarter, but while the Pelicans were only able to muster a 13-point performance, Curry scored 11 of his 34 points.
Williams told SFBay that by the end of the game when things got close, he thought back to the first quarter and how it could have changed the game:
“When you compare it (the first quarter) to the end of the game and how close we got, it makes you think about the start. But it takes more than the start and the finish to make up a game.”
Despite the Warriors hefty lead, the Pelicans were unshaken and opened the second quarter with an 8-0 run, forcing two quick Warriors turnovers.
But the Warriors forged on, as Klay Thompson unleashed an 11-point quarter of his own and Golden State took a 59-41 lead at halftime.
Curry, who was held to 4-of-13 from beyond the arc, became incensed by several no-calls, red-faced and screaming after drives to the basket resulted in no foul calls.
Curry admitted to reacting harshly, but said it is a momentary emotion that has no bearing on the rest of the game:
“You’re going to react a certain way. As long as it doesn’t distract from what you’re trying to do. There were a couple possessions where I thought it was pretty obvious but they saw it differently. You have a reaction and you move on.”
Midway through the third, Thompson broke free for a rare dunk that brought the crowd to their feet. On the following play a steal by Barnes led to a wide open trey for Andre Iguodala, pushing the Warriors lead to 23.
Closing out the third and opening the fourth, the Pelicans scored 14 straight points to cut the Warriors’ lead to 11. The Warriors pushed back but Davis continued finding ways to score into the final frame, racking up 20 of his 35 points in the final quarter of his NBA playoff debut.
An Eric Gordon three cut the Golden State lead to 10, and in the final three minutes Davis single-handedly brought the Pelicans within striking distance, but was unable to top the Warriors.
Even with Thompson missing two free throws for the Warriors and Gordon hitting a deep two with just 20 seconds left to play, the Warriors’ early lead gave them enough of an advantage to outlast the late New Orleans drive.
Nobody from the Warriors camp was satisfied with the fourth quarter, even owner Joe Lacob could be heard venting over the outcome as his team left the floor.
But Warriors head coach Steve Kerr said no matter how close the score got, the end result, a win, was exactly what they wanted:
“We missed a lot of free throws, which made it a lot close than it needed to be. But in the playoffs, you’ve just got to get it done somehow. We’re up 1-0. That’s where we want to be.”
The Warriors will host the Pelicans for Game 2 Monday night before heading to New Orleans for the third and fourth games of the series.
Golden State held New Orleans to 13 first-quarter points, the fewest the Warriors have allowed in a playoff first quarter in the shot clock era and the fewest in any playoff quarter since Game 6 of the 1975 Western Conference Finals. … All five Warriors starters scored in double figures. … Stephen Curry scored a team-high 34 points, his sixth career 30-point game n the playoffs, and has hit a 3-pointer in 74 consecutive games overall (has hit a three in every playoff game of his career). … Andrew Bogut recorded his fourth career playoff double-double with 12 points and 14 rebounds to go with five assists. … Draymond Green secured his fifth career playoff double-double with 15 points, 12 rebounds and a playoff-career-high seven assists.