For a moment, Monday presented a different version of the New Orleans Pelicans. New Orleans’ bunch, even with superstar forward Anthony Davis absent with an injury, displayed rare form — out-performing the NBA’s most explosive club rich with superstars.
The Pelicans were seemingly doing almost everything right — one of the few ways to topple the excellence of these Warriors. For half of the Pelicans' 125-115 loss Monday to the defending champion Golden State Warriors, New Orleans out-shot and out-played the Warriors.
Then, there was a second half — and it all fell apart.
"You don't win a game in one half," said Pelicans guard E'Twaun Mooore.
New Orleans blew a chance to end a nine-game losing streak to the Warriors (19-6). Aided by some extra zest because the reigning champs are in town for a second time this season, Monday's Pelicans at first dominated the Warriors in emphatic fashion and Golden State’s third win versus New Orleans this season seemed out of sight.
Behind a season-high-tying 34 points from Jrue Holiday, New Orleans clubbed the travel-bogged Warriors to the tune of a 69-49 lead at halftime before Golden State starting revving at full-throttle on both ends of the floor.
"That's the only way you can beat that team — you've got to play for 48 minutes," said Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry.
But New Orleans (12-12) showed a super version of itself in Monday's opening half against the Warriors, who completed a two-day back-to-back Monday amid a six-game road trip, their longest this season.
About that first half: Holiday rocked the Warriors’ All-NBA guard combo of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson for 23 points in two quarters. Rajon Rondo had 10 assists in 24 minutes.
The Pelicans, for all intents and purposes, did not need to rely on either of their superstars, DeMarcus Cousins or the injured Davis, for much of Monday’s loss.
Starting in Davis’ place, forward Dante Cunningham tied his season high with 11 points in 32 minutes. Rondo added 10 points and 11 assists and Moore, a fellow guard, contributed a career-high 27 points.
"That's the only way that you can line up and play against the world champs," Gentry said. "You've got to have your perimeter players play great."
But, in their famous fashion, the super-shooting Warriors popped the Pelicans repeatedly in the third quarter, washing away New Orleans’ 20-point halftime lead with a 15-0 run to begin the period and halting an ongoing celebration the Smoothie King Center began prematurely.
By the third quarter's end, largely thanks to 15 third-quarter points from Curry — who also became the eighth player in NBA history to hit 2,000 career 3-pointers — the Warriors chopped the 20-point deficit to three points entering the final quarter.
"They don't ever think they're out of the game," Gentry said.
Curry, who exited late in the fourth quarter after rolling his ankle and required an X-ray after the game, finished with his fourth double-double this season with 31 points and 11 assists. Thompson, Kevin Durant and Draymond Green each contributed 19 or more points.
Then the final blow. Golden State earned its 20th win in 21 games against New Orleans by outscoring the Pelicans 37-24 in the final quarter.
In the final minutes, Cousins and Durant were ejected after both were involved in a shouting match with each other and game officials.