Yet they still didn’t have enough to best a Golden State squad that submitted notable performances from its bench to go along with the usual standout games from their starters. In a tight game, the Warriors came up big down the stretch in a 97-87 victory to take a 2-0 series lead.
Oracle Arena was rocking on the heels of Pelicans coach Monty Williams questioning the legitimacy of their crowd noise, but it was New Orleans who came out and dominated the opening stanza. Three of those Gordon shots from downtown came in that first frame, and both teams took advantage of sloppy turnovers to score in transition. New Orleans built a 28-17 lead after one, struggling to contain Golden State on the break, where they poured in 13, but holding the Warriors to a mere four points in the half-court.
Unlike Game 1, Warriors coach Steve Kerr rested Curry and Klay Thompson at the same time to start the second quarter. Their bench struggled mightily in Game 1, so this was a chance for the Pelicans to really stretch the lead. In yet another plot twist, a lineup with Leandro Barbosa, still blazing fast at 32 years old, and Marreese Speights stepped up and became a big catalyst:
Draymond Green: "Nobody will write about it, but the bench won that game for us." Said their 2Q changed the tone
— Marcus Thompson (@ThompsonScribe) April 21, 2015
On the contrary, Draymond. Kerr admitted postgame that he didn’t give his bench enough leash in Game 1, and they rewarded him for his trust in Game 2. Golden State scored 11 points in the first four minutes of the second, trimming the lead for the starters when they returned. A strong stint from Cole, who scored nine of his 11 before the break, helped ensure the Pellies still had a lead for Davis to return to, though the Warriors continued to chip away. Back-to-back triples from Thompson tied it up, and eventually Curry drilled a three for a 55-52 Warriors lead at the half.
New Orleans proved its mettle, coming back from nine down in the third to briefly lead 69-68, largely thanks to Evans bouncing back from a tough start by getting to the free throw line. Tied at 71 going into the fourth, a sequence of vital plays helped turned the tide in Golden State’s favor for good. First came a dunk from Thompson where Gordon neglected to leave sub-par shooter Andre Iguodala to provide resistance at the rim. Then a turnover by Gordon gave the Warriors an opportunity on the break, but Dante Cunningham made a fantastic block on Speights, with Cole scoring his only basket of the second half on the other end.
The Warriors responded as great teams do, posting a 7-0 run off an emotional Green nailing a three; then Shaun Livingston converting a beautiful stop-and-spin layup. New Orleans would again trim the lead to one a couple times, but as Davis fatigued from playing the entire second half, their chances to win progressively faded. Gordon missed a pivotal three with just under two minutes remaining and Thompson sealed the deal on the ensuing possession.
It was a valiant effort from the Pellies, especially since Jrue Holiday was unable to go due to continued problems with his right leg. Davis finished at 26/10/3/2/2, becoming the first power forward or center since Al Horford in 2012 to cross the 45-minute mark in a regulation playoff game in the process. Gordon missed a couple crucial looks in crunch time, but still poured in 23.
Much like Miami in last year’s Finals, the Pelicans can hang in this series when their best players are on the floor, but things just fall apart when they have to go the edges of their rotation. Unfortunately for them, Golden State is simply loaded. Curry was hounded by Cole and posted “just” 22 points on 21 shots. To pick up the slack, Thompson bounced back from his below average Game 1 for 26 points on 11-17 shooting. The bench was huge and Andrew Bogut was his usual self, setting all sorts of they’re-legal-as-long-as-they-aren’t-called screens and anchoring the defense.
On top of all that, the most important player for the Warriors was Green. Going 42 minutes yet again, he had 14 points, 12 boards, five assists, a couple of steals and a pair of blocks. He has now gone 10 rebounds/five assists/two steals/two blocks in both games. Only a handful of players, all Hall of Famers, have done that twice in an entire postseason, and Green’s only two games in. A fiery player who’s vocal both in trash talk and leading his team, he’s like if Joakim Noah shrunk a few inches and learned to shoot threes. Curry is likely the league MVP, but Green is just as vital to their title chances.