Stephen Curry Dominant as Warriors Get Win vs. Anthony Davis, Pelicans

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured ColumnistJanuary 17, 2019

Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry reacts after hitting a 3-point basket against the Denver Nuggets in the second half of an NBA basketball game, Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2019, in Denver. The Warriors won 142-111. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
David Zalubowski/Associated Press

The Golden State Warriors continued rolling Wednesday with a 147-140 victory over the New Orleans Pelicans in a Western Conference showdown at Oracle Arena.

Golden State is 31-14 following its sixth win in a row, while the Pelicans fell to 21-24 despite going 4-1 in their previous five.

It appeared as if the Pelicans would cruise to a win with a 16-point lead in the second half, but Stephen Curry exploded for 23 points in the third quarter and finished with 41 points on 11-of-22 shooting from the field and 9-of-17 shooting from three-point range. Kevin Durant (30 points and 15 boards) and Draymond Green (17 points and 14 assists) notched double-doubles, while Klay Thompson added 19 points and seven rebounds.

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Anthony Davis stuffed the stat sheet with 30 points, 18 rebounds, seven assists and three blocks for the Pelicans, but it wasn't enough against Golden State's second-half onslaught.

         

Boogie Cousins Remedy for Warriors' Only Real Weakness

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The Warriors are a modern-day dynasty that made the last four NBA Finals and won three, and it seems foolish at this point to overreact to regular-season games when they have the talent to steamroll through the playoffs.

However, it is fair to wonder about their interior play, and the presence of Davis on the floor was a reminder Golden State doesn't have a formidable big man to go with its litany of All-Stars for the time being. That was especially the case as the Kentucky product spearheaded a dominant offensive effort that saw the visitors pour in 71 points in the first half alone and surpass the century mark before the end of the third quarter.

Golden State entered play dead last in the league in points in the paint and just 14th in opposing points in the paint allowed, per NBA.com. That isn't championship-caliber, although this team has enough strengths elsewhere to overcome those numbers.

Enter DeMarcus Cousins, a four-time All-Star and one of the best big men in the league and a downright unfair solution to a rare Warriors concern.

He will start Friday's game against the Los Angeles Clippers as he returns from a torn Achilles, giving head coach Steve Kerr the option to throw out an All-Star-Game-like fivesome of Cousins, Curry, Thompson, Durant and Green.

Kevon Looney and Jonas Jerebko are solid rotational pieces but not championship-level bigs teams without the array of stars elsewhere like the Warriors could rely on during the postseason. Cousins gives the Warriors someone who can score on the blocks on the offensive end and protect the rim on the defensive end.

He held opponents to 8.7 percent worse shooting inside six feet than their normal averages during his last full season in 2016-17, per NBA.com.

Offensively, his presence will create even more open looks for the three-point shooters because opposing defenses cannot afford to lose him. Still, it is Golden State's ability to match up with the likes of Davis, Clint Capela, Nikola Jokic, Steven Adams or LaMarcus Aldridge, among others, in potential playoff series that stands out the most about his return.

The Warriors will truly be a team with no weaknesses by the time the playoffs arrive if Cousins plays at the All-Star level he has for much of his career.

           

Healthy Pelicans Prove They're Ready to Make Playoff Push

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Curry was a human cheat code who single-handedly swung the tide of the entire game by going off for 23 points in the third quarter alone, but that doesn't change the fact that the Pelicans were the better team for extended stretches of Wednesday's contest.

They led by 16 points late in the third quarter and hung tough in the fourth even after Golden State's run, which is sometimes all one can ask for against one of the best teams in NBA history. Just ask the Denver Nuggets, who have the second-best record in the Western Conference but lost to the Warriors by 31 points at home on Tuesday.

The Pelicans couldn't hold off the two-time defending champions, but they are still trending in the right direction with a solid showing after they won four of their previous five.

New Orleans was 2.5 games back of the No. 8 seed entering play, which is far from an impossible climb. It also has arguably one of the top five players in the league leading the way and should be accustomed to playing in pressure-packed games after reaching the playoffs and winning a series against the Portland Trail Blazers last season.

Most importantly, it is getting healthy at the right time.

Davis (elbow), Elfrid Payton (broken pinky), Nikola Mirotic (ankle) and E'Twaun Moore (quadriceps) all missed time this season, preventing the Pelicans from playing with their full arsenal of weapons for extended stretches.

"We have to find a rhythm," guard Jrue Holiday said on Friday, per Andrew Lopez of the Times-Picayune. "Trying to get Niko back into it, EP more and more, hopefully E'Twaun comes back. Having the full team, we get to see what we did at the beginning of the season in the first four games."

New Orleans found a rhythm for most of the game against the Warriors in an effort that would have been good enough to beat essentially every other team in the league.

It also has the opportunity to get right back on track with two of its next three games against teams that are below .500. A healthy Pelicans team has enough talent to be a factor in the race for the Western Conference's No. 8 seed, and Wednesday's outcome did nothing to change that.

           

What's Next?

Both teams are on the road Friday, with the Pelicans playing the Portland Trail Blazers and the Warriors facing the Clippers.

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