Rajon Rondo told Anthony Davis to “take a nap and think about 50” in the hours leading up to a playoff game New Orleans all but had to win to have any hope of staging a playoff upset against 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 timeout 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.
“Our mindset is to go out there and play, do what we’re supposed to do, follow the game plan and whatever results happen, happen,” Davis said. “We followed the game plan to a tee.”
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 resoundingly. The Warriors never led by more than a single point and trailed by double digits for almost the entire second 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 to 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. 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.”
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.
Warriors: Green, who was soundly booed by Pelicans fans, had 11 points, 12 rebounds and nine assists. … Kerr juggled the starting lineup with two new insertions, elevating Curry back to starter and also starting center JaVale McGee. Andre Iguodala and Nick Young, who started games 1 and 2, opened as reserves. … Kerr was assessed a technical foul in the first half.
Pelicans: Mirotic finished with 16 points and E’Twaun Moore scored 13. … New Orleans outrebounded the Warriors 54 to 44 and finished with a 19-12 advantage in second-chance points. … Got 32 points from reserves, led by Clark.
Green and Rondo downplayed their after-the-whistle jawing.
“I get nothing out of trying to bait Rondo into anything. That does nothing for me,” Green said, insinuating that Rondo initiated their exchanges. “When have I went up to him and tried to bait him? … I’ve baited a lot of guys, tried to bait a lot of guys, succeeded quite a bit. I ain’t trying to bait nobody.”
Rondo chalked up the testiness to “just how I am,” and complimented Green’s competitiveness.
“It’s kind of just natural for me to respond, not in a crazy way or anything, but just to let them know we’re not a pushover,” Rondo said. “He’s a great competitor. I love competing against him.”
CHANGE OF VENUE
New Orleans 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 in the first half, New Orleans was 10-of-15 from 3, while Golden State was just 5-of-15.
Mirotic’s third 3 put the Pelicans up 60-48 late in the second quarter.
Thompson’s layup and two 3s in quick succession pulled the Warriors 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.
Game 4 is Sunday afternoon, when New Orleans can even the series or the Warriors can take a 3-1 lead back home for Game 5.
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