Pelicans shoot down Warriors’ hopes of escaping lowest play-in round

SAN FRANCISCO — Earlier this week, the Warriors shot an earth-shattering 63.4% from behind the arc to stun the Lakers.

Now they know how it feels.

Playing with a chance to climb up to the eighth seed in the West, the Warriors couldn’t find an answer to the Pelicans’ aerial assault. New Orleans shot 20-for-38 (52.6%). CJ McCollum alone went 8-for-13 from deep, pouring in 28 points. Draymond Green played stout individual defense on Zion Williamson, but the Pelicans star still finished with 26 points.

The Pelicans held off a fourth-quarter push from Steph Curry and Golden State. Curry scored 16 of his 33 points in the fourth quarter, but committed seven turnovers in the game.

Curry’s flurry came too late in a 114-109 loss. Because the Warriors (45-36) had to win both of their remaining games for a chance to advance up to eight place, they’re likely locked into the play-in round between the ninth and 10th seeded teams.

It was a night of pandemonium in the Western Conference — both at the top and bottom. Denver blew a 23-point lead to the last-place Spurs, falling from first place to third. The Timberwolves survived a scare to Atlanta, as did the Lakers against a Grizzlies team with 13 inactive players.

The Lakers’ win exerted pressure on both the Warriors and Kings to win; all three California teams are vying for the eighth seed.

Golden State came out of the tunnel with life.Draymond Green stonewalled Zion Williamson inside before tossing an alley-oop off the glass to Trayce Jackson-Davis. Moments later, Steph Curry found Jackson-Davis for a dunk over Williamson.

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The Warriors opened on a 17-6 run. Both teams were on the second night of a back-to-back, but the older Warriors, at home, looked like they had more energy.

But the younger Pelicans had fresh legs — they just needed some time to heat up. An 11-0 surge in the second quarter turned a double-digit Warriors lead into a Pelicans edge. When Steve Kerr re-inserted his starters into the game to quell the Pelicans’ run, things got even worse for Golden State.

McCollum started raining 3s. Trey Murphy III joined him. Nobody on the Pelicans could miss, as they put up a 45-point second quarter.

McCollum dropped 15 points in the period, each of which came from behind the arc. The Pelicans hit 10 of their 13 shots from deep as the Warriors helped too frequently off Pelicans shooters, particularly  in the corners.

The Pelicans were taking advantage of a Warriors team often backpedaling on defense, as turnovers prevented them from getting set. Curry, a night after playing 36 minutes in Portland, committed four turnovers in the second quarter alone and five in the first half.

Herb Jones, Jose Alvarado and Murphy blanketed him tightly, but several mistakes Curry made were unlike him. Kerr has said that an indicator of Curry being fatigued is his decision-making.

At one point in New Orleans’ second quarter barrage, cameras caught McCollum jawing with Klay Thompson. Golden State’s sharpshooter didn’t have much of a leg to stand on in the moment, as the Pelicans won the frame by 23, taking a 62-48 lead into halftime.

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Thompson got the next word, though. His 3 in transition capped an 18-9 burst for the Warriors to open the second half. Andrew Wiggins spent more time guarding McCollum and was aggressive on the offensive end. The Warriors cut New Orleans’ lead to five and made it a game of runs.

New Orleans had a counter. Triples from Jones, Murphy, McCollum and even Williamson quelled the Warriors’ momentum.

The Warriors were getting crushed in the 3-point battle and in the turnover department. But they were tough on the glass, creating extra opportunities and getting to the free throw line. A Green offensive rebound created a Chris Paul 3-pointer, inching the Warriors within six early in the fourth. Then he found Thompson for another 3 on the wing.

The Chase Center crowd erupted when Curry checked back in, his team down 92-89 with 7:57 left. Moments later, when Curry nailed a step-back 3 over Williamson, the building got all sorts of ideas.

But Curry committed another turnover, Williamson went into freight train mode, and Murphy converted a tough 3 of his own. Just like that, New Orleans pushed its lead back up to nine. Then Jones found himself wide open in the corner for yet another 3.

Curry drilled another step-back and sandwiched it with two layups. He certainly didn’t look tired anymore. Thompson stripped Williamson and Wiggins got to the line to bring the Warriors within three as the clock ticked under 90 seconds.

The Chase Center crowd rose to its feet. McCollum sat them down right away with his eighth 3. Curry responded with his seventh. Back and forth. 112-109.

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The Warriors had a chance to tie the game with 20 seconds left, but Curry rushed a one-handed 3-pointer over two defenders. The Warriors had the last run, but it wasn’t big enough.

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