The New Orleans Pelicans appeared poised to end the Golden State Warriors’ 15-game winning streak.
Then, the Pelicans blinked.
And that was all Warriors All-Star guard Stephen Curry needed.
Curry sank a mid-range jumper and had a big assist and a 3-pointer in the first 1 minute, 21 seconds of overtime, leading the Warriors to a 128-122 victory Sunday night at Smoothie King Center.
“I was struggling when they switched with a big guy, and I kind of rushed it before,” said Curry, who finished with 34 points, including eight in overtime. “But I tried to take my time and get in rhythm. Thankfully, in overtime, I got that mid-range shot and started to adjust and making them.”
Curry’s burst gave the Warriors (21-2), who have the NBA’s best record, a 119-112 lead with 3:27 left in overtime. When he sank another 3 at the 2:35 mark, it pushed Golden State’s margin to 125-114.
The victory was Golden State’s ninth consecutive against the Pelicans and seventh in a row in New Orleans.
The Warriors beat the Pelicans 112-85 on Dec. 4 in Oakland, California.
Guard Klay Thompson joined Curry with 29 for the Warriors, but the Pelicans’ Tyreke Evans matched Curry’s total and point guard Jrue Holiday scored 30. Sixth man Andre Iguodala scored 20 for Golden State, and that proved to be a big difference.
Asked whether the Pelicans (11-12), playing without All-Star forward Anthony Davis, ran out of gas, coach Monty Williams said, “Maybe.” The Pelicans shot 3-of-12 in overtime.
“Our guys fought their tails off; we just came up short,” he said. “To have a chance to win against the best team in the league says a lot about our guys.”
Davis, who suffered a chest contusion in Friday’s win against Cleveland, was still feeling the effects of it and didn’t play. Still, New Orleans appeared on the cusp of its biggest win of the season, considering the circumstances.
Evans picked up his fifth foul with 5:26 remaining and left the game shortly after. He didn’t return until there was 2:57 left.
The Pelicans led 107-99 with 4:16 left in regulation after forward Dante Cunningham scored off a pick-and-roll pass from Holiday. But Thompson drove for a basket, Curry sank two free throws and Iguodala made a big 3-pointer from the corner with 3:11 showing to bring the Warriors within one of the lead as Evans returned to the game.
Still, the Pelicans led 111-110 after Evans drove, was fouled and made two free throws at 1:22 of the fourth. Warriors center/power forward Marreese Speights sank one of two free throws with 43.5 seconds left, tying the score and setting the stage for overtime.
The Pelicans had one last shot with 2.5 seconds left, with Evans coming off a screen. But Iguodala played it perfectly, forcing Evans to slide to his left and throw up a desperation shot near the 3-point line.
But the Pelicans had to fight to get to that point. Just as it appeared the game had gotten away from them, they came back and forged a tie at 89 entering the fourth quarter.
Defense might be one way to describe what fueled the comeback, although grit might be another way.
Trailing by 10 most of the third quarter, New Orleans was behind 82-72 with six minutes left. Perhaps feeling they had nothing to loose, the Pelicans got more physical. They promptly went on an 11-0 run, started by Jeff Withey’s dunk after Holiday drove and passed off.
Ryan Anderson, who started in place of Davis and had 15 points, made a 3-pointer. Evans missed on a drive, only to snatch the ball from Speights, who had rebounded, and put the ball in for the lead.
Just like the last time the teams met, the Warriors took control in the second quarter, outscoring the Pelicans 32-20 in taking a 60-51 halftime lead.
Golden State’s surge began after New Orleans led 39-36 after Jimmer Fredette hit a jump shot in the lane at the eight-minute mark. But the Warriors tightened their defense, and the Pelicans began going one-on-one with more frequency. They went through a 1-of-7 stretch from 7:24 to 4:27.
Davis was held out of the game after expressing discomfort in his chest and doctors urged caution. He was injured near 5:50 of the first quarter vs. Cleveland on Friday. “Whenever the doctors feel like we should hesitate, we just go ahead and pull the plug,” Williams said. “When you’re dealing with a guy’s chest, there’s not a lot of reference points for that. I’m not sure there’s a timetable; I think he’s day-to-day. He probably needs a day at practice just to see how he can get out back there because it’s a freak deal. When you have those situations, you have to make sure you’re right, and that’s what we’re trying to do.” … For the third consecutive game, two Pelicans scored 30 points or more. … Holiday’s brother, guard Justin, plays for Golden State. Justin, a year old than Jrue, is in his second NBA season. He had two points and a steal in three minutes Sunday.