Anthony Davis wasn’t Anthony Davis in the first half against the Golden State Warriors on Tuesday at Smoothie King Center. He was in the second half, though.
Davis scored 23 of his 29 points after halftime, and Quincy Pondexter scored 20 points as the Pelicans held off the Warriors for a monumental 103-100 victory with five games to go.
“Man, what a win,” said Pondexter, who shot 4-of-4 on 3-point attempts, including a crucial one that tied the score in the fourth quarter. “I tell you, believe in us, New Orleans.
“AD didn’t start off great, but he picked it up and got the rest of us going.”
The win ended a 10-game Warriors winning streak against the Pelicans, including seven in a row in New Orleans. More important, it gave the Pelicans (42-35) a half-game lead in the Western Conference’s eighth and final playoff spot with five games to go after Oklahoma City was blown out at home Tuesday 113-88 by the San Antonio Spurs.
New Orleans, which outscored the Warriors 60-45 in the second half, clinched its first winning season since 2011, the last time the franchise reached the playoffs. The Pelicans came back from a 12-point halftime deficit. Davis shot 8-of-11 in the second half after going 2-of-10 in the first.
“I just kept shooting,” Davis said. “I’m not going to let anybody take me out of my game.”
It was the second consecutive loss by Golden State (63-15), only the third time this season for back-to-back losses by the Warriors and the first time since Jan. 30. Golden State has the best record in the NBA and had already clinched home-court advantage in the West.
The Pelicans dodged two bullets. First, with New Orleans leading 101-100, Warriors MVP candidate Stephen Curry missed a floater in the lane, and Davis grabbed the rebound and was fouled with 9.0 seconds left. He made both free throws, pushing the lead to three.
After dropping the ball then picking it up, Curry, who scored a team-high 25 points, then attempted a 3-pointer that went into the basket and out at the buzzer against defense by Dante Cunningham.
“We responded to their pressure in the second half, but we didn’t executive well enough down the stretch, and they did,” said Warriors forward Draymond Green, who had 24 points and 14 rebounds. “New Orleans is a team fighting for a playoff berth, and they played like it tonight.”
Tyreke Evans had given New Orleans a 101-100 lead with 15.5 second left when he made the first of two free throws after being tripped by Andre Iguodala while bringing the ball up.
However, he made a big play before that. After Iguodala stole a pass by Ryan Anderson, Evans lunged to knock the ball away on the Warriors side of the court. After reviewing the play, officials ruled Iguodala lost it out of bounds with 21.1 seconds left, nine on the shot clock.
“For Tyreke to not give up on the play and go out there and sacrifice his body was huge,” said Davis, whose pump-fake-and-drive three-point play with 1:37 left produced a 99-95 lead. “That’s wining basketball.”
After being held to 34.9 percent shooting in the first half, the Pelicans had much more vim and vigor in the third quarter in taking a 79-78 lead, outscoring Golden State 36-23 in the quarter. Davis led with 13 points in the quarter on 5-of-6 shooting, including a rebound dunk after he blocked two shots on one Golden State possession at the 6:50 mark.
With Davis scoring six points on 2-of-10 shooting and fellow starters Omer Asik, Eric Gordon and Tyreke Evans combining to go 3-of-9 and scoring eight, the Pelicans trailed 55-43 at halftime. An 11-0 run from the 4:40 mark to 1:24 put the Warriors in control.
That came after they’d scored the final 10 points of the first quarter, capped by Curry’s 26-foot 3-pointer with 2.1 seconds left, in taking a 27-19 lead.
After the game, the Pelicans immediately headed to Memphis for their game Wednesday against the Grizzlies (52-25), a fellow Southwest Division foe who are third in the conference. The Pelicans are 2-1 against them this season.
“It was a good win, but we’ve had big wins,” Davis said. “We consider ourselves an elite team. We have another tough game (Wednesday) night.”