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Warriors vs. Pelicans Game 3 recap: A Comeback for the Ages

If you missed this game, you may want to DVR the replay. It will go down in history.

Fear the baby-faced assassin. The Pelicans sure will.
Fear the baby-faced assassin. The Pelicans sure will.
Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Despite a blistering stretch by the Splash brothers to begin the game — staking Golden State to a 17-8 lead in the process — the first three quarters of game 3 were a New Orleans rout. A complete blowout, the likes of which Warriors fans have not suffered in quite some time.

Once Draymond Green sat on the bench with two early fouls in the first quarter, the Pelicans offense took off at warp speed. The Pels shot .596 for the first half as a team (.517 for the game), and a tidy 5-of-11 from long range. Meanwhile, the Warriors were ice cold, scoring a measly two points in over six minutes to begin the second quarter. The second unit, consisting of Andre Iguodala, Shaun Livingston, Leandro Barbosa and Marreese Speights, simply looked wretched: when they weren't missing shots, they were turning it over, creating fast break points. As a result, ‘Nawlins helped themselves to a very uncharacteristic 17 points via fast break, further inflating their shooting statistics.

However, despite trailing by as many as 16 points on the road, the Warriors simply weren't outplayed quite as badly as it appeared. The Dubs matched the fast pace of the Pelicans with 18 fast break points of their own; they actually limited the Pelicans to just three free throw attempts (yeah, yeah, you don't take free throws while swishing 26-foot three pointers), and they only had six turnovers of their own (it only looked like 16). To trail such a game by 11 points at the half wasn't a victory for the Warriors, but it definitely took the sting away.

Then the second act started, and the shots didn't start to fall. It got even uglier. Draymond Green picked up his fourth foul while going for a frustration steal in the third, and the Warriors began to clank everything like an oil can drummer: not just open jumpers, but layups and tip-ins. Nothing fell. The Warriors seemed intent on outdoing their dreadful first half performance, as New Orleans posted a 10-run to match an earlier 19-0 run. Before long, a solid but unlucky performance began to look like a season-worst outing, as the Warriors were shooting below 36% through three quarters.

The Warriors defense had stepped up, holding the Pelicans to just 26 third quarter points (down from 37 allowed in the second). Unfortunately, they only managed 17 points of their own, despite playing Stephen Curry heavy minutes. With the deficit swelling to 20 points, and Curry at 31 minutes in just three quarters, it was only a matter of time before the Warriors signaled a strategic retreat.

Except that didn't happen. Coach Kerr sat Curry down for an overdue rest to start the fourth, but left the rest of the starting unit in with reserve Shaun Livingston. And after several minutes of back-and-forth basketball, the Warriors broke through. The Splash Brothers steadily continued to fill it up, but the contested layups and 50-50 shots started to roll in. Before long, that familiar sense of dread began to seep into the Smoothie-King arena floors: like a shark, the Warriors smelled blood in the water and were in the middle of a frenzy.

By the four minute mark, the Warriors were suddenly within eight points. By the 1:30 mark of the fourth quarter, the Warriors trailed by a measly four points: it was time to execute. But like so many other times this series, the shots just wouldn't fall. Down late, and playing the foul game is new to the Warriors, but what choice did they have?

The Warriors stretched out the game just long enough to run their offense, unfettered and loose. The Pelicans played amazing defense, stifling most of the Splash Brothers off-ball movement that so few teams have been able to slow. Yet the Warriors found a way, inching closer every minute. Nothing came easy, but the points did come.

With 9.6 seconds left, Stephen Curry, then shooting a woeful 7-of-22 on the night, went all MVP on the Pelicans: a contested corner three pointer over Anthony Davis (while being fouled) to send the ballgame into overtime. The Warriors, out of nowhere, had completed an all-time great playoff comeback. New Orleans was in a state of shock, but the Pels were able to muster enough fight to battle on in overtime. But the Warriors were done cresting in the fourth quarter, and were crashing down on the Pelicans. Despite Ryan Anderson's heroics, the Pelicans were put away, 123-119.

This wasn't about scheme or execution, this was simply the better team putting its foot down. The Warriors, a poor offensive rebounding team, grabbed what must be a season high 10 offensive boards in the fourth quarter alone. Offensive boards are largely an effort statistic, and they're emblematic of a Warriors team that, even down 20 points in the fourth quarter, would not accept defeat.

Despite multiple very questionable calls from the referees (seriously: these refs should be investigated for making two extremely one-sided, potentially game-changing calls), the Warriors did what only Champions can do.

Stephen Curry or Michael Jordan for the last shot has become a serious debate now. I'm just like...what use are words right now? The Warriors are up 3-0 after winning what will go down as one of the most memorable games in Warriors playoff history. CELEBRATE!

A blurb about referees

It's generally poor form to criticize the officiating in a game, but I want to rant, anyway. Draymond Green fouled out on a blown call — a routine rebound that got whistled as an over the back seconds later (as if Draymond could ever go over the back of Anthony Davis). But that could be excused as 'just' a bad call. Then, trailing three with under 11 seconds to go, the Pelicans were awarded a free throw and possession for an off-ball foul — implying that the referees were accusing the Warriors of playing hack-a-brow while up three with under two minutes to go. In other words, intentionally fouling the best free throw shooter on the court this series. WHY?

No team in the history of the world would do this, and this call was simply inexcusable, regardless of the situation. To happen with seconds left in a playoff game, which gave New Orleans a chance to win the game outright on their final possession, deserves a second look. The refs weren't good either way tonight, but these calls shouldn't be made in the future.

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