New Orleans — Rajon Rondo told Anthony Davis to “take a nap and think about 50” in the hours leading up to playoff game New Orleans all but had to win to have any hope of staging a playoff upset of defending champion Golden State.
Davis didn’t quite score 50, but his dominance around and above the rim got the Pelicans back in the series.
Highlighted by dunks of the driving, put-back or alley-oop variety, Davis had 33 points to go with 18 rebounds and four steals, and the Pelicans defeated the Warriors, 119-100, on Friday night to trim Golden State’s series lead to 2-1.
“He came out aggressive. He set the tone on both ends of the floor,” Rondo said. “He attacked the rim strong tonight.”
Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry added that he “felt real good” during a time out when he heard Davis say, “We’re not losing this game.”
Davis’ determined play around the basket helped New Orleans outscore the Warriors 54-36 in the paint and outrebound Golden State, 54-44.
The Pelicans five-time All-Star said “aggression” had more to do with his team’s victory than any tactical adjustments they made.
The Warriors have been known to erase large deficits in a hurry, but each time they tried to do so in Game 3, the Pelicans responded en route to a resounding victory. The Warriors never led by more than a single point and trailed by double digits for almost the entire first half, going down by 25 points in the third quarter and 26 in the fourth.
Golden State shot uncharacteristically poorly from outside, missing 22 of 31 3-point attempts and finishing at 38-percent shooting (35-of-92) overall.
“Most of it is attributed the Pelicans. Their defense was great,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “They were the aggressors. They brought the necessary force to the game on their home floor and these are the ebbs and flows of the playoffs.”
Jrue Holiday scored 21 for New Orleans and Ian Clark added 18 points against his former club. As in Game 2, Rondo once again had a heated exchange with Warriors forward Draymond Green (Michigan State). This time, Rondo backed it up with 21 assists.
“You can’t get assists without your teammates. They made shots tonight. Guys moved well without the ball,” Rondo said. “It starts with defense. We were able to get stops, get out in transition — create mismatches in transition. Guys are going to their spots and I’m just trying to find them.”
Klay Thompson scored 26 for Golden State, but missed 13 of 22 shots. Stephen Curry, in his second game back after a sprained knee sidelined him more than a month, missed 13 of 19 shots and finished with 19 points. Kevin Durant scored 22 points for the Warriors, but hit only two shots in the second half.
“I was rushing a little bit and just missed shots,” Curry said. “I’m not going to get in my head about it. … You can’t really dwell on anything.”
The Pelicans, meanwhile, made 14 of 31 3s, with Holiday, Clark, Nikola Mirotic and Solomon Hill each hitting three.
They seemed to benefit from being back at home and looked to be the more comfortable team shooting from the outset.
Hill, who missed all four 3s he took in the first two games, made his first three from deep. At one point late in the second quarter, New Orleans was 10-of-15 from 3, while Golden State was just 5-of-15.
Mirotic’s third 3 of the first half put the Pelicans up 60-48 late in the second quarter, but the Warriors’ ability to score in bursts help them slash their deficit in half before the period ended.
Thompson, who’d shot poorly in Game 2 and at the beginning of Game 3, scored eight quick points on a driving layup and a pair of 3s, trimming New Orleans’ lead to 62-56 at halftime.
But the Pelicans opened the third quarter with a 10-2 run and led by double digits the rest of the way, responding each time the Warriors tried to make a run.
Green, who was soundly booed by Pelicans fans, had 11 points, 12 rebounds and nine assists.
Western Conference semifinals
Houston 113, (at) Utah 92: James Harden had 25 points and 12 assists to lead Houston to victory Utah in Game 3 of their Western Conference semifinals series.
Eric Gordon added 25 points and Chris Paul had 15 points, seven rebounds and six assists for the Rockets. Houston beat Utah in Salt Lake City for the third time this season to take a 2-1 series lead. Game 4 is on Sunday.
Royce O’ Neale scored 17 points. Alec Burks chipped in 14 points while Rudy Gobert added 12 points and nine rebounds for the Jazz.
Utah never got on track on offense. The Jazz shot poorly over the first three quarters and committed 16 turnovers. Houston scored 19 points off those turnovers.
On the heels of a listless first-half effort in Game 2, Houston avoided enduring another slow start. The Rockets picked apart Utah’s defense practically from the opening tip.
Houston opened the game by scoring baskets on six of its first seven possessions. Harden capped the flurry with his first basket to put the Rockets up 15-5. It only grew worse for the Jazz from there. The Rockets led by as many as 22 in the first quarter, taking a 37-15 lead on back-to-back baskets from Harden and Gerald Green.
Houston made 16 of its 26 shots in the first quarter and totaled 39 points in the period. As effective as the Rockets were on offense, their defense proved equally troublesome for Utah. They forced the Jazz to commit six turnovers before the second quarter and scored nine points off those turnovers.
Utah cut Houston’s lead 49-34 midway through the second quarter after O’ Neale scored three straight baskets to fuel a 9-0 run. Clint Capela ended the run with a dunk and the Rockets proceeded to outscore the Jazz 31-9 over a 10 minute stretch extending into the third quarter. They pushed their lead to 80-43 on a driving layup from Ariza with 8:01 left in the quarter.