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Final Score: Pelicans force Warriors into late turnovers, win 126-120

Kevin Durant’s 41 point performance gets marred by a disastrous series of Warriors’ turnovers down the stretch. Anthony Davis leads New Orleans with 34 points.

NBA: New Orleans Pelicans at Golden State Warriors Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

The Golden State Warriors were defeated 126-120 by a desperate New Orleans Pelicans team fighting for its playoff life. Kevin Durant led all scorers with a gargantuan 41 points, adding 10 rebounds and 5 assists. He also led the Warriors into some horrendous turnovers late in the fourth quarter with the game on the line. Quinn Cook had yet another strong showing, finishing with 21 points, drilling 5-of-7 shots from beyond the arc.

The Pelicans needed a win tonight in order to stay alive in the Western conference playoffs, and they got a great group effort to do it. Anthony Davis led the charge for New Orleans with 34 points, 12 rebounds, and 4 blocks. Nikola Mirotic added 28, and Jrue Holiday chipped in 25.

First Half

In the last home game of the season, The Bay’s team even showed it’s respect for the city of Oakland by donning those chic “Town” Nike alternate jerseys. If only the champ’s first quarter defense was as sharp as those black threads. The Pelicans poured on 40 points in the first period; their hunger to make the playoffs quite apparent. The Warriors trailed by as many as 11, and the Pelicans aggressive offensive execution aroused some good ol’ competitive fire in the champions.

Mirotic, in particular, raised the intensity by killing the Warriors for 18 points on 7-of-12 shooting (4-of-7 were three point bombs) in the first half.

Cook responded by fighting fire with fire, lighting up the Pellies for 15 points of his own after two quarters. He showcased a deadly ability to knock down wide open jumpers in tight windows of time before New Orleans’ gambling defense could recover.

You know, spacing and shooting, the things that make the Warrior offense unstoppable? Yeah, Cook’s fully capable of making that happen against a playoff caliber team like the Pelicans, which is a fantastic sign on the eve of the postseason. All of a sudden, the Warriors attack began looking real familiar, as intelligent unselfishness fueled precise cutting and laser passing.

After two entertaining quarters, the Pelicans led 67-65.

Second Half

Momentarily in the third quarter, the Warriors defense returned to Alcatraz levels, completely shutting down the visitors as Durant activated “Splash Rage” mode. The offense morphed into Durant operating out of isolation, destroying single coverage, and skipping the ball around when the double team came.

The Slim Reaper finished with 19 for the quarter, reminding us of what I mentioned earlier today in a guest podcast appearance with Pelicans blog “The Bird Writes”: the Pelicans have no KD stopper. The Dubs ended the third ahead 92-88.

Sadly, the Warriors starting coughing up turnovers all over the floor in the final period, feeding the Pelicans easy transition opportunities. Once New Orleans seized a sizeable lead and the momentum late, Kerr shifted to a defensive oriented lineup with Andre Iguodala, Kevon Looney, Draymond Green, Durant, and Thompson. This group stopped the bleeding enough to cut their deficit to two with 1:01 left.

Then this happened:

That pretty much sealed the game (Maybe Rondo’s a KD-Stopper?!). The Warriors offense shot 54% from the field and made 15 three-pointers, but 8 ugly turnovers in the last quarter barred them from pulling out the win.

Moving On

The Pelicans out-executed the defending champions down the stretch and helped control their destiny in the Western Conference standings as the regular season closes. The Warriors are still firmly entrenched in the #2 seed, and were able to experiment in a crazy crunch-time atmosphere against a team they may very well see in the first round of the playoffs.

The Warriors next meaningless game will be tomorrow against the Phoenix Suns.