OAKLAND, Calif. – Hanging with the defending champion Warriors for more than three quarters is commendable, but if a team can’t close the deal, hanging doesn’t account for much.

The Pelicans made Golden State work for its 121-116 victory Tuesday night at Oracle Arena, but that effort doesn’t erase the fact that New Orleans trails 2-0 in the best-of-seven Western Conference semifinal series.

Game 3 is Friday night at the Smoothie King Center.

The Warriors overwhelmed the Pelicans 123-101 in the opener Saturday evening. New Orleans guard Jrue Holiday took some solace in his team’s improved effort and execution.

“We played well the whole game,” said Holiday, who scored 24 points. “I think we got our rhythm back. We got our groove back. Maybe there are just a couple of things here and there that we need to change but, definitely a positive turnout from this game.”

One striking disparity in each game: the number of trips to the foul line. On Tuesday, Golden State went 22-for-27 on free-throw tries; New Orleans was 7-for-9.

For the two games, the Warriors are 46-for-59, the Pelicans 16-for-20.

“We’ve got to get to the line,” New Orleans center Anthony Davis said in the postgame news conference. “I don’t think I shot that many jumpers. I don’t think Jrue shot that many. We’re both attacking the basket.”

At that point, Rajon Rondo interjected, “Forty-eight (field-goal attempts). Both those guys shot the ball 48 times. I think we were attacking just as they were.”

Yes, Davis (12-for-24, 25 points and 15 rebounds) and Holiday (11-for-24) each attempted 24 field goals and neither had a free-throw try.

Golden State welcomed back guard Stephen Curry, who played for the first time in more than five weeks. Though he didn’t start, he seemingly didn’t miss a beat. The two-time MVP dropped home 28 points, going 8-for-15 from the floor, including 5-for-10 from long distance.

He hit a 3 a mere 11 seconds after he entered the game with 4:20 left in the first quarter. His 3-pointer with 1:47 remaining in the game made it 119-106, essentially clinching the win for Golden State.

“To get back out there on the floor, play some playoff basketball, and get a big win tonight, it was huge,” Curry said. “It was a good feeling.”

A key moment came midway through the fourth quarter. The Pelicans had the ball, down 101-98. Andre Iguodala made a steal and streaked downcourt. Rondo fouled Iguodala as he went for a dunk. The ball hit off the rim, went straight up and then through the net.

Iguodala converted the three-point play to put Golden State in front by six. It was part of an 11-0 run that New Orleans couldn’t overcome.

Kevin Durant led all scorers with 29 points. Draymond Green, who put together a triple-double in Game 1, fell one rebound shy of another Tuesday. He had 20 points and 12 assists.

Rondo had 22 points and 12 assists.

The first half was nip-and-tuck. Neither team led by more than four points in the second quarter. The game was tied 55-55 in the waning seconds. Curry was off the mark from long distance and the ball went to his backcourt mate, Klay Thompson.

It’s doubtful Thompson called bank on his 3-point try, but his off-the-glass 3 beat the buzzer, and the teams headed to the locker room with Golden State on top 58-55.

The Warriors are on top of the series, but New Orleans head coach Alvin Gentry, like Holiday, took some encouragement from the Pelicans’ performance.

“We did what we wanted to as far as taking the ball to the basket,” Gentry said. “We had 39 fast-break points, and that’s all playing in our favor, and there are just a few things we’ve got to continue to get better at.”

NOTES: Since losing Game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals, the Warriors have won 14 consecutive playoff home games. The Chicago Bulls of 1990-91 own the league-record streak for home playoff wins at 15. … The Pelicans went 13-for-37 from three-point range, the Warriors were 13-for-40.