OAKLAND, Calif. — The New Orleans Pelicans entered Friday night’s game hoping to keep up in the Western Conference playoff race but ultimately were unable to overcome careless turnovers and injuries to key players, losing to the Golden State Warriors 112-96.
The Pelicans entered the game missing four of their six top scorers, including the league’s fourth-leading scorer and two-time All-Star, Anthony Davis (24.6 points per game). Center Omer Asik (calf), forward Ryan Anderson (MCL sprain) and guard Jrue Holiday (right leg) also missed the game because of injury.
With all of the injuries and just 10 active players, the Pelicans shot 42.9 percent from the field. Turnovers were the biggest problem for coach Monty Williams and the Pelicans, who committed 21 of them, ultimately leading to 21 Warriors points.
The Pelicans were shooting 46 percent from the field for the season heading into the game, but are shooting just 37.6 percent from the field over the past three games.
New Orleans hung with the Warriors after one quarter, scoring 26 points to trail just 30-26, but then mustered only 16 points in the second quarter.
“We scored OK in the first quarter,” Williams said. “In the second quarter, they were switching, and we didn’t respond well to that. There were times where we didn’t slip out of those switches, and we didn’t make the good reads or the proper reads.”
New Orleans was able to cut the Warriors’ lead to just 66-61 with about five minutes remaining in the third quarter. But that was the closest they could get. MVP candidate Stephen Curry led the Warriors to a 20-7 run to end the third quarter to take an 86-68 lead heading into the final quarter.
“It wasn’t like it was a Stephen Curry-prototype push,” Williams said of the run. “I think they had us on our heels tonight in transition. Whether it was a make or miss, they drove the ball every single time. And off a back-to-back, our guys got tired.”
Despite the deficit, the short-handed Pelicans played hard in the fourth trying to claw their way back into the game, outscoring the Warriors 28-26 in the fourth.
Williams said he is proud of his team’s performance despite the 16-point loss to the league’s best team.
“I was proud of how we competed in a tough game,” Williams said. “We won the fourth quarter. If you’re going to take something away from a game like this, that’s something you can hang your hat on. I’m not one for moral victories; but from that standpoint, I’m glad our guys competed to close the game out.”
Tyreke Evans said the Pelicans work hard to make sure they compete for the entire game.
“We’re just competing,” Evans said. “We play hard for each other and never give up. Every chance we get, we try to play 48 minutes like that. Guys are doing a good job.”
With the Oklahoma City Thunder’s win and the Pelicans’ loss, New Orleans falls behind the Thunder by two games for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
Williams and the Pelicans will face the Los Angeles Clippers on Sunday, hoping to stop the two-game skid.
“(Saturday) will be a great off day for us to get away from each other,” Williams said. “We never want to put all of our eggs in one basket, but it will be nice to get Sunday’s game. It’s a great opportunity for us.”
The players know every win is critical in such a tight playoff race and so few games left on the schedule.
“We don’t know who’s going to be available, but we need to go out there and just compete, just give it everything we have,” center Alexis Ajinca said. “We definitely need a win on this trip to end up with a good trip. I think everybody will be focused on that and try to come out with a win.”
Backup big man Jeff Withey agrees that the team needs to avoid going home without a win on this important business trip.
“We’ve got to get something out of this road trip,” Withey said. “We’ve come this far, and to be in the hunt in the playoffs and then a goose egg on a road trip … we just have to regroup and on Sunday come more focused and get ready to play.”