NBA

Pelicans drop overtime thriller to streaking Warriors

Jim Eichenhofer
Photo by NBA.com

Playing without the man many have called the NBA’s best player in 2014-15, New Orleans stood toe-to-toe with Golden State for four quarters Sunday. The overtime period was a different story. The Warriors scored 14 of the extra session’s first 17 points, building a 125-114 lead with 2:11 remaining. The Pelicans (11-12) created some nervous moments for the Warriors but ultimately couldn’t end Golden State’s franchise-record winning streak, which is now 16 games.

Anthony Davis was sidelined by a chest injury, but New Orleans received huge games from Tyreke Evans (34 points) and Jrue Holiday (30 points), nearly enough to score an early-season upset, two days after beating Cleveland.

“We’ve got heart,” Holiday said, when asked what his team showed Sunday without starters Davis and Eric Gordon. “Even with a couple of our best players out, someone can step up, anything can happen. As long as you play hard, execute, stick together.”

“To have a chance to win against the best team in the league, says a lot about our guys,” Pelicans Coach Monty Williams said minutes after the OT buzzer. “This feeling is awful but at the same time, that team (Golden State) has played together for a while. They’ve played in (pressure) situations. I think we’re moving in the right direction, for sure.”

New Orleans appeared poised to take down NBA-leading Golden State (21-2) when it built a 107-99 lead with 4:16 left in the fourth quarter, but the Warriors closed regulation with a 12-4 spurt. Reserve forward Marreese Speights scored the last three points of the fourth, including a free throw with 43 seconds left that tied it at 111.

In OT, the Pelicans only mustered one Evans free throw over the initial 2:00, enabling the Warriors to eventually go up 125-114. Holiday scored six points from there, and Jeff Withey (season-high 10 points) added a layup, but the closest New Orleans got was 126-122.

For the second time for each player in the last three games, Holiday and Evans delivered 30-plus points. Both carried a significant workload again sans Davis, logging 45 minutes apiece. Evans would have played even more, but he had to come out of the game with his fifth foul in the fourth quarter. He fouled out at 3:00 of the OT period. The Pelicans also benefited from a stellar night from reserve Dante Cunningham (13 points, 6-for-7 shooting, 30 minutes).

“I can’t say enough about the guys contributing,” Williams said. “Jeff was good off the bench, Dante was great. Jrue and Tyreke were really good getting to the basket, and making mid-range shots as well.”

Golden State’s backcourt duo of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson receives rampant, well-deserved acclaim for being the NBA’s best guard tandem, but Holiday and Evans were just as good Sunday, outscoring the “Splash Brothers” 64-63.

Golden State, which has not lost since Nov. 11, still managed to prevail, by shooting 51 percent from the field and making several key defensive plays. Warriors forward Draymond Green blocked shots by Evans and Ryan Anderson (15 points, 6 rebounds) in the final minute of the fourth quarter. The Pelicans shot 3-for-12 in OT, severely hurting their chances before they made one final push in the last two minutes.

“We couldn’t hit a shot,” Williams said of OT.

“We tried to make plays, but we didn’t finish,” Holiday said. “But that’s part of the game. When you get hit in the mouth, you’ve got to come back, and that’s what we did.”