Riding a dominant third quarter and another explosive Gary Payton II game, the Golden State Warriors defeated the New Orleans Pelicans, 126-85. Jordan Poole led the team in scoring for the second straight game, Andre Iguodala had ten assists off the bench, and Steph Curry hit four threes in the first quarter on the way to 19 points.
The bench again thrived, with contributions from nearly every player. Before the game, Kelenna Azubuike encouraged the team to take advantage of the undermanned Pelicans, who are missing Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram. Azubuike said, “If you’re a starter in this game or you’re coming off the bench, use this game and have a great game! Pad your stats! Why not?” The bench took it to heart. Nemanja Bjelica was a whopping +33 in his 18 minutes, with three threes and seven rebounds, and an absolutely devastating two-man game with Curry.
Exhibit A of why a Steph-Bjelica 2-man game is unfair pic.twitter.com/aH984U75E3— Joe Viray (@JoeVirayNBA) November 6, 2021
Otto Porter Junior made consecutive threes to close out the first quarter. Andre Iguodala’s passing was huge for the second unit, not just due to his sweet lobs. Andre’s passing was infectious, with the Warriors whipping the ball around like a Hickory High offense. Except with so many more dunks. Andre wasn’t impressed, calling the team “a work in progress.”
Andre Iguodala with effusive praise for his team: "We're OK. We're a work in progress. We've kinda had a more favorable schedule, so I don't think you look too much into it."— Steve Berman (@BASportsGuy) November 6, 2021
Gary Payton II was the game-changer, however. Not just with his harassing defense, but doing damage from the dunker spot on offense.
He finished with 16 points on 7-10 shooting, primarily right at the basket. Payton was effectively a point on guard on defense and a power forward on offense.
The offensive star for the Pelicans was Jonas Valanciunas, who had 20 points and 15 rebounds. As unstoppable as JV was at the rim, the Warriors eventually made him pay on defense, and no one else stepped up for New Orleans. He was one of only three players in double figures, and Devonte Graham and Josh Hart only had 12 and 10 points respectively. The Pels’ last two first-round picks had a rough night as Kira Lewis Jr. and Trey Murphy III combined to shoot only 3-19.
Despite the 41-point final margin, the game was only 54-50 at halftime. A high-scoring first quarter - the Warriors sank eight three-pointers - ended with the Warriors up 38-31. Then the Warriors had trouble containing Valanciunas and their shooting went ice cold in the second quarter. In a nine-minute stretch from the second to the third quarter, they missed 12 three-pointers, and not coincidentally, the lead shrunk from 13 points to two. But Curry made a step-back 28-footer, then hit Poole for a dunk.
To top this off, Curry continued his All-Defensive campaign with a big block on Devonte Graham that led to Draymond Green free throws.
In a departure from his usual substitution pattern, Steve Kerr took out Curry for three minutes during the third quarter. It paid off, as the Warriors stretched the lead from 10 to 17 points. And when Curry returned for the final three minutes to play alongside Payton, they closed on a 9-3 run. We’ll see if this continues.
Steve Kerr says they’re likely going to have Curry sub out in the middle of the first and third quarters and then start the second and fourth with the second unit. Very different than Currys traditional rotation.— Tim Kawakami (@timkawakami) November 6, 2021
It’s nothing new at this point that the Golden State Warriors tend to run away with games in the third quarter. But tonight, cliché or otherwise, it was the story of the game. The Warriors won the quarter 34-16, and it felt like it could’ve been 50-10. New Orleans was barely offering defensive resistance, and the Warriors had a steady diet of wide-open threes and wide-open dunks after backdoor cuts. While the Pelicans were in an uphill battle from the start - they tried using Garrett Temple on Curry to start the game - they were simply overmatched, particularly when the Warriors went small with Bjelica at center.
The Warriors are now 7-1 with a point differential of 13.7, and tied for first in the Western Conference. Yes, the schedule has been favorable so far, with the only legitimately good wins over the Lakers and Clippers of Los Angeles. But one thing is shared by many great teams in all sports: they beat the stuffing out of bad teams. And it’s a positive sign that they can win with Curry taking only 15 shots. He’s taken 16 or fewer shots in four of the last five games, and they won all four.
Is this a mediocre 7-1 record? Maybe, but it beats the hell out of a mediocre 5-3 mark.
Draymond Green didn’t put up big numbers, but he continued his excellent play this year, leading a defense that’s currently #1 in defensive rating. He added eight points, eight rebounds, five assists, and two steals - so well rounded!
Klay Thompson gave a mid-game interview to ESPN while riding a stationary bicycle on the sidelines in which Mark Jackson shouted out his dog, Rocco. The biggest revelation was that Mark Jackson defeated Steph Curry in a shooting contest in 2013, and presumably retired on top of his game, Buster Posey-style.
The game got so out of hand that Moses Moody entered the game with eight minutes to go in the fourth quarter, and quickly Jonathan Kuminga joined him for some garbage time action, in which Kuminga displayed an absolutely Paschall-esque scoring touch.
Slick drive, spin and lefty layup from Jonathan Kuminga right through Tomas Satoransky pic.twitter.com/BeK1EAT9it— Anthony Slater (@anthonyVslater) November 6, 2021
In addition to watching the rookies, you had to be impressed by the garbage time enthusiasm of Damion Lee, who still treats the last minutes of a sure victory like he did when he was a mere Curry-in-law, playing on a two-way contract, and trying to stay out of Santa Cruz for just one more night. He attacks and shoots as if he hasn’t locked up his spot in the rotation, and all the fans who didn’t bail for Netflix or HBO Max after the Warriors took a 30-point lead really appreciated his effort in some very clearly meaningless basketball.
(Note to NBC Sports Bay Area: You don’t need to repeatedly run a crawl during Warriors games informing viewers that the G League game between the Santa Cruz Warriors and the Stockton Kings is airing on another channel. Who is more interested in Santa Cruz vs. Stockton than NBA basketball featuring Steph Curry? Maybe Jordan Bell’s parents?)