Warriors swat away Pelicans after slow start

The outcome was hardly in question. So Andrew Bogut heaved a three pointer. And made it.

That was the kind of birthday party Stephen Curry was thrown, as the Warriors blew the candles out on New Orleans Monday night 125-107.

This story has been updated with quotes and post-game material from the Warriors locker room at Oracle Arena.

It didn’t start that way though, as the Pelicans marched to an early lead and the Warriors could barely pace the Western Conference up-and-comers. Five minutes into the game, Golden State’s stagnation on both sides of the ball left New Orleans with a 7-6 advantage.

Head coach Steve Kerr said:

“I just felt like the defense was better in the second half than in the first. I think our defense was stuck in mud during the first half.”

But with under three minutes left in the first, Curry launched a perfect three to tie the score at 20. Draymond Green drove to the basket on the next possession, and broke the game wide open.

The Warriors led for the remainder of the evening, with Bogut sinking his triple halfway through the third quarter. The shot heard around the universe lifted the score out of range, a 70-55 Warriors lead that seemed to grow by the nanosecond.

Bogut, asked whether there is a slang term for a three-pointer, replied:

“No, it’s one of the few things that we don’t have slang for. 3-ball? We’ll have to come up with something.”

Kerr added:

“We might have to draw a couple plays for Bogues. He messes around in practice, and he’s actually a pretty good shooter if he just lets it fly. He can make shots. It’s just not what he’s thinking about out there. He just wants to block shots and get assists and do his thing. I actually want him to shoot a little more.”

Kerr joked that the three-ball might not be the most common role for Bogut moving forward, though.

A minute after Bogut gave the Dubs a 15-point lead, Curry’s smooth handles led to a finger roll that put Golden State up by 20.

The most incredible play of the evening came with a minute left in the third quarter. Guard Leandro Barbosa passed up a sure two points and passed the rock to Curry, who was waiting on the perimeter.

Curry didn’t set his feet, he didn’t hardly look at the basket. In his best championship level volley, Curry tossed the ball into the Dubs’ net and jogged forth like he missed. Reset to defense. No big deal.

If you’re the reigning MVP, you can have your cake and eat it too while celebrating your birth at the office. And the rest of the team followed Curry’s lead.

Marreese Speights sank a three. Klay Thompson, off a pass from Curry that bounced off Bogut’s fingertips, knocked them down.

Curry will head home, and says his cake will probably be something chocolate. But that will come after being met by fans that gathered as close to the team tunnel as possible to sing happy birthday.

Pelicans head coach Alvin Gentry made sure to stop by the Golden State locker room and wish Curry well, tell a few jokes, and of course, poke some fun at Bogut.

The former Warriors assistant was all smiles in his former locker room and even got a chance to speak with general manager Bob Myers.

Naturally, though, something Gentry never saw with Golden State were two centers sinking three pointers. All that was missing was an Anderson Varejao throwing one up there from deep. Maybe Festus Ezeli will sink one when he returns from injury.

Speights said:

“Coach said he likes it, so if you up big, I’m going to throw it up every time.”

Thompson, Speights, Kerr and Curry said that Bogut can shoot alright. Maybe better than alright. And given the reaction from Golden State’s locker room, Bogut’s 9.4 points per game could be rising as the season comes to a close.

And for Curry, the only certainty in his future seems to be chocolate cake and the top choice for the league MVP award. He’s got little left to do.

Just blow out the candles, and wish for another Larry O’Brien.

To say the Warriors remaining schedule is brutal would be an understatement. Save for the final game of the regular season, Golden State does not have two off days in a row left in 2016.

That’s 15 games over the next 28 days. Six of them are on the road: facing Dallas, San Antonio (twice), Minnesota, Utah and Memphis.

This, without Ezeli and Iguodala, could make the road to 73 a lot more difficult than it seems.

Said Bogut:

“We don’t have any time to reflect (on certain records).”

Bogut referenced injuries as a potential roadblock to 73 wins, and also mentioned the possibility of resting guys for the postseason.

Kerr’s ultra-competitive nature is the one thing that could create a situation where players don’t get more rest than usual, or the rest that most teams would get as the No. 1 seed. Which is still something the Warriors are fighting for, as they currently hold a four-game lead over San Antonio.

With the two playing each other three times to round out the season — both are also undefeated at home — there is legitimate reason to keep playing like things aren’t sewed up.

Because nothing is guaranteed at this point. Only a top two seeding in the Western Conference.


Jason Leskiw is SFBay’s Golden State Warriors beat writer. Follow @SFBay and @LeskiwSFBay on Twitter and at SFBay.ca for full coverage of the Warriors.