The Golden State Warriors stormed back to beat the New Orleans Pelicans 120-109 at Chase Center on Tuesday night, overcoming a 20-point first-half deficit. Here are three key reactions—with related film and analysis, as always—from the Warriors' pivotal victory over the Pelicans.
Golden State flips the second-half switch
The Warriors trailed 63-43 when Brandon Ingram hit a tough 16-footer with just under 40 seconds left in the first half. Nothing they'd done over the previous 23 minutes and change suggested a roaring comeback following the break. Golden State, after all, was thoroughly outplayed upon tempers flaring between Draymond Green and Brandon Ingram and Herb Jones—among other Pelicans, naturally—with 3:44 left in the second quarter.
Where would the Dubs' second-half fire come from? Everyone and everywhere, pretty much all at once.
Donte DiVincenzo's soaring tip dunk over two defenders on the Warriors' first possession of the third quarter set an on-court tone clearly established in the locker room. Golden State's suffocating, multiple ball-denial defense moments later proved it would be sustained over the game's remainder.
Watch how many switches, close-outs and rotations the Warriors make on this defensive trip amid their furious run, helping the helper again and again to yield a shot-clock violation on the Pelicans.
That wasn't the only possession Draymond was in multiple places at the same time. All the Dubs deserve credit for flipping the defensive switch after halftime, but it was Green and Jonathan Kuminga whose fingerprints were all over New Orleans' loud second-half struggles offensively.
These fourth-quarter sequences are basically carbon copies. Kuminga hounds C.J. McCollum and Brandon Ingram on the ball, then Green somehow manages impact close-outs on Larry Nance Jr. in the strong corner once the drive is completely contained.
Green, the most disruptive help defender of his generation, didn't just make his presence felt on that end covering for his teammates. When the Warriors switched him onto star ball handlers or briefly assigned him as their primary stopper, Green answered the bell—not even counting the many times he stoned Jonas Valanciunas on the block.
Look at Draymond swallow McCollum and Ingram one-on-one in the fourth quarter.
Golden State didn't only turn the dial up on defense.
Thirteen turnovers, many of the frustratingly careless variety for which this team has become known, played a major part in the Dubs' massive first-half hole. They committed just five giveaways in the second half. That additional ball security kept New Orleans from getting out in the open floor, where they finished with 22 points—all but two of which came prior to halftime.
The Warriors caught fire from three in the third and fourth quarters, too, out-scoring the Pels by 24 points from deep after losing the early long-range battle. Just three of New Orleans' 11 offensive boards came during Golden State's furious second-half rally.
Is the Dubs' awful first-half performance indicative of big-picture problems that could doom their quest for back-to-back titles? Of course. The same issues that have dogged them since 2022-23 tipped off were on full display throughout the first and second quarter on Tuesday.
But then the Warriors hit their peak when they had to, roaring back in championship form for a much-needed victory that could go a long way toward ensuring they avoid the play-in tournament.
Kevon Looney, king of the offensive glass
Curry spearheaded Golden State's epic rally, finishing with 39 points, eight rebounds, eight assists and three steals. He shot 14-of-25 overall and 8-of-15 on triples, three of which came in succession as the Warriors continued winnowing away at the lead late in the third quarter.
How did the best shooter in basketball get those looks? In large part due to Looney's tireless work on the offensive glass, where he's become one of the best rebounders in the NBA.
Looney corralled six offensive rebounds on Tuesday, grabbing at least three of his teammates' misses for the ninth time in the last 10 games. When did he fail to reach that threshold? In Sunday's crushing loss to the surging Minnesota Timberwolves, one of the biggest, longest teams in basketball.
Let's just say Looney made up for it against the Pelicans.
Don't ignore who's supposed to be keeping Looney off the glass. Valanciunas is a mountain, and an accomplished rebounder himself. It just didn't matter when matched up with Looney, who's taken his awesome efforts on the offensive boards to new heights during the stretch run of the regular season.
Anybody but Steph Curry (and Klay Thompson)
It's no secret the Warriors' offense revolves around Curry. Absent Andrew Wiggins, though, that doesn't just mean Golden State's attack subsists off the mass attention the greatest shooter of all-time commands whenever he passes halfcourt. It's also an indication of just how starved the Dubs are for three-level scorers and proven self-creators beyond Curry with Wiggins sidelined.
Taking a page from the Wolves, the Pelicans preyed on that reality from the very beginning of Tuesday's game—well, at least with Valanciunas on the bench. When Willie Green went to Larry Nance Jr. at center, New Orleans put Curry in a pick-and-roll vice grip, executing aggressive ICE coverage to keep the ball from the middle and get it out of Curry's hands.
It didn't go much better for the Warriors even when Curry managed to find a ball-screen release valve.
Do these possessions end differently if Wiggins is on the floor, there to take advantage of a winning numbers game against a scrambling defense? Maybe. But slotting any combination of Looney, Green and Kuminga up front leaves Golden State somewhat lacking both explosive finishing ability and imminently threatening three-point shooting.
This problem isn't going away for Golden State. Smart teams will make the Warriors' supporting cast beat them even if and when Wiggins returns, content to die by twos and (relatively) low-value triples rather than Curry's singular magic and a barrage of Klay Thompson triples.
Look how many Pels run to Thompson off this routine flare screen.
The Dubs must find a way to consistently make defenses pay for selling out to stop not just the reigning Finals MVP, but the Splash Brothers at large. Specific personnel deficiencies, especially when short-handed, sometimes make that task more difficult for Golden State than names on the roster suggest, as Tuesday's first half laid bare.