The Golden State Warriors are going to see a lot of the New Orleans Pelicans down the stretch and wasted no time setting the tone Monday.
Golden State defeated New Orleans 123-108 at the Smoothie King Center in the first of three matchups between the teams in a 12-day span. Stephen Curry led the way for the victors, who improved to 33-32 on the season with their second straight win and moved four games ahead of the Pelicans in the race for the Western Conference play-in tournament.
A solid showing from Zion Williamson was not enough for New Orleans as it fell to 29-36 and saw its own two-game winning streak come to an end.
Notable Player Stats
- Stephen Curry, G, GS: 41 PTS, 8 AST, 4 REB, 8-of-18 3PT
- Draymond Green, F, GS: 10 PTS, 15 AST, 13 REB, 3 STL, 2 BLK
- Andrew Wiggins, F, GS: 26 PTS, 4 REB, 2 BLK
- Zion Williamson, F, NO: 32 PTS, 8 REB, 2 BLK
- Brandon Ingram, F, NO: 19 PTS, 4 AST, 2 REB
Steph Continues to Torch the League
ESPN's broadcast of Monday's game had a superhero focus, which was fitting given the individual heroics of Curry, who has kept the Warriors in the Western Conference playoff picture.
All he did in April was set the NBA record for the most three-pointers in a month with 93 while averaging 37.3 points a night. It has reached the point that head coach Steve Kerr told ESPN's Ramona Shelburne that Curry is starting to remind him of Michael Jordan because the greatness "just becomes routine."
It was more of the same right out of the gates, as Curry nearly outscored the Pelicans by himself in the first quarter (21-17) and unleashed an array of step-back threes and crossovers as he glided through defenders and scored with his split-second release.
Golden State extended its lead to as many as 25 points in the first half with him leading the way, but it wasn't a one-man show. Draymond Green dished out assists as a point-forward, Juan Toscano-Anderson provided a spark off the bench and Andrew Wiggins took advantage of openings in the lane when the Pelicans collapsed on Curry.
Yet it all came back to No. 30, who seemingly had an answer for every Pelicans' run.
He continued to drain deep threes in the second half to keep the home team at bay, dished out assists when needed and sent Eric Bledsoe to the ground with a particularly impressive crossover. Cameras even caught Williamson laughing when Curry hit another triple from well beyond the arc.
His presence alone makes the game so much easier for teammates like Wiggins to rack up the points, and the Pelicans simply had no answer.
Zion Impresses but Pelicans Defense Struggles
The pressure was on a Pelicans team that is in now-or-never mode for this season with four of its final eight games against play-in tournament contenders in the Warriors and Memphis Grizzlies.
If Williamson is going to make the playoffs in his second season, it will require an impressive sprint to the finish line. He started off on the right foot with 37 points, nine rebounds and eight assists in New Orleans' first game in May in a victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves and had the opportunity to build on it against the Warriors.
So much for that.
Rather than coming out with urgency, the Pelicans appeared to sleepwalk their way through the start as they fell behind by 25 points in the first half. To their credit, they battled back some with Williamson overpowering defenders on the block and Brandon Ingram providing secondary scoring, but the defense was too much of an issue.
New Orleans' efforts on that end undercut every comeback attempt even when it climbed to within single digits in the second half.
The silver lining for the Pelicans was the fact that Zion was unstoppable for extended stretches. The pressure of a late-season game with playoff implications didn't get to the 20-year-old, who figures to eventually play the Pelicans into the playoffs at some point in the near future even though it likely won't be this season.
The two teams meet again Tuesday in New Orleans at 8 p.m. ET.