The noticeable differences against the New Orleans Pelicans went beyond his donning of Golden State’s new Statement Edition jersey for “The Town” night at Oracle Arena, and his pre-game fanny pack. Errant passing, sloppy ball-handling and flat shooting plagued the two-time MVP who uncharacteristically shot 1-of-11 for a mere 5 points, three of which were free throws, in the first half. But guard Klay Thompson said he was never worried about Curry’s lulled shooting night:
“He has proven time and time again for the past nine years that he will eventually get hot. When you are a career 44-percent three-point shooter, it’s going to fall. So, I was never worried and I’m sure he wasn’t either.”
When you have a loaded bench and a fellow Splash Brother in Thompson to pick up the slack, the Warriors (15-5) proved there is little need to worry. Despite Curry struggling throughout the game and the absence of Kevin Durant (left ankle sprain), Golden State pulled away from the Pelicans (11-9), 110-95.
Thompson played a major role, especially in the second quarter as he led the Warriors to their first lead of the game. Although it was only a one-point lead which was short-lived as the Pelicans tied up the game 53-53 at the half, Thompson’s efforts allowed Golden State to gain momentum going into the second half, a push that head coach Steve Kerr has been present since the beginning of the season:
“I thought Klay was great on both ends. When we needed a big shot he was there for us. Klay’s overall game has been rock solid. All year he’s been drive-and-kick, rebounding and no turnovers tonight. Klay was fantastic.”
Thompson admitted shooting percentage, ending at 41.5 percent, was not up to Warriors caliber but said limiting turnovers was the ultimate key to success:
“The whole game shots weren’t going in, which is alright when we only have single-digit turnovers. That’s why I think we won tonight.”
Curry started the night off on a high note, presenting former teammate Ian Clark with his 2017 NBA Championship ring prior to tip-off, but from the start of the game, Curry’s rhythm was off. Though his shooting game slowly improved in the second half, Curry ended the game shooting 9-of-25 and 3-of-13 from downtown, only pulling up major points in the fourth quarter, yet somehow managing to lead the Warriors in scoring with 27 points, a feat Kerr said is telling of Curry’s level of play:
“It takes a special kind of confidence to do what Steph did tonight. Guys like Steph, MVP-Caliber players; they find a way to turn a bad night into a good one and that’s what he did. He stayed with it.”
Curry admitted his early flat shots may have been due to coming off of last nights game a little too eager and confident, but he resolved that the only way he was able to turn his shot game around was to push through the frustration:
“You’ve got to block it out as best as you can and have a sense of amnesia almost. It is frustrating in the moment, a shot feels good and doesn’t go in or over the course of a couple games you may not be shooting as well as you want to, but you worry about that at practice and in between the games, but you can’t let that kind of doubt creep in when you’re out there on the floor.”
The Warrior bench was the saving grace, cranking out a total 34 points, with forward Andre Iguodala eloquently heading the effort with patience and accuracy in his shooting, pulling out 14 points, to earn a top-three scoring spot alongside Curry and Thompson (24).
Iguodala, who was listed as probable coming into the game due to knee soreness, ended up playing over 30 minutes in Durant’s absence, a fact that amazed him as he stared in amazement at the stat sheet. But he said he knew what he needed to do to help his team:
“Our second unit tries to provide a spark. I think we did that tonight. I had a burst in the second half where I got to the basket like I did in my younger years. I got fouled on a break, normally I would pull it back out.”
Another noticeable presence on the court was the always entertaining rivalry between forward Draymond Green and Pelicans center DeMarcus Cousins. Though Saturday’s game didn’t seem to have the same dramatic effect as the last time the two antagonistic players faced off in October, Cousins and Green appeared to go toe-to-toe, mirroring fouls, with Cousins picking up two in the first, and Green subsequently picking up 2 fouls back-to-back early into the second. As if competing for who could accumulate the most fouls, Green picked up his third with 7:04 left to go in the 2nd, sending him to the Warriors bench, Cousins then followed suit.
In total Green and Cousins were tagged with five fouls apiece.
Cousins had an equally abysmal statistical night. The center could muster just 15 points. Leaving forward Anthony Davis and guard Jrue Holiday to grab the reigns. But ultimately it wasn’t enough against the Warriors who once again proved that with so many moving pieces, they can find a way to put the puzzle together, even if it’s not pretty.