As unstoppable as the Warriors looked in the first two games of their Western Conference semifinal series against the Pelicans, most probably wouldn't have expected a New Orleans blowout win in Game 3. But that's exactly what we got, as the Pelicans got their first win of the series with a 119-100 victory on Friday in New Orleans.
Rajon Rondo had 21 assists, Jrue Holiday scored 21 points, and the Pelicans cut the Warriors' series lead to 2-1. Time to hit the casino, eh?
Here are five takeaways from the game.
The Brow goes Beast Mode
When assessing the series, particularly after the first two games, most said the Pelicans' only chance would be if Anthony Davis had one of those LeBron-like dominant performances. Well folks, we got it. Davis absolutely took over in the second half, and looked unstoppable against any unfortunate soul the Warriors threw his way. He finished with 33 points, 18 rebounds and four steals while committing just a single turnover. New Orleans needed this game in the most desperate of ways, and Davis came through like the franchise player that he is. Now the question becomes, can he keep it up?
Kerr swings and misses with JaVale
JaVale McGee was extremely effective in the first round against San Antonio, but had been relegated to basically no playing time in this series due to matchup issues. So it was somewhat of a surprise to see McGee in the starting lineup for Game 3. Steve Kerr had gone small in the first two games without Stephen Curry in the starting lineup, but he elected to go to a more traditional lineup with McGee at center on Friday. It was a problem from the jump, as McGee was clearly outmatched trying to guard the quicker Anthony Davis, and the Pelicans effectively neutralized McGee as a lob threat early, basically eliminating his only offensive threat. As a result, McGee was a minus-10 in nine minutes on the court.
It's understandable that with Curry back in the starting lineup, Kerr would want to send Andre Iguodala back to his normal bench role, but if you're going to go bigger, why not start Kevon Looney, who's already been effective in two games against Davis and New Orleans? Kerr always makes the starting lineup with is rotations in mind, but he'll have to think twice about having McGee on the court again in Game 4.
Pelicans get tough
It's not just Rajon Rondo getting into a shoving match with Draymond Green after the whistle -- the Pelicans were physical with the Warriors all night. They didn't allow many easy buckets, pounded the offensive glass and pushed the Warriors around much more than they did in the first couple of games. Mostly they made the Warriors uncomfortable, not a position that Golden State is accustomed to in this year's playoffs. You're not going to stop the Warriors from scoring, but getting physical helped the Pelicans hold them down about as well as anyone can hope.
Curry goes cold
After a blistering return to the court in Game 2 (28 points in 27 minutes), Curry came back down to Earth with about as poor a shooting performance as he can muster. He scored 19 points, but shot just 6-of-19 from the floor and 3-of-9 on 3-pointers. On paper it may seem like inserting a two-time MVP into the starting lineup would be an automatic advantage -- and it likely will be later in the series -- but reincorporating Curry on both sides of the court clearly affected Golden State.
Pelicans' bench is alive
If the Pelicans were going to win a game in this series, they needed to get some sort of contribution from their bench. Role players usually play better at home, and right on cue Solomon Hill and Ian Clark stepped up big time. Hill made three 3-pointers in the first quarter alone, after not hitting one in either of the first two games. A former Warrior, Clark caught fire pretty much as soon as he entered the game, scoring 18 points in 17 minutes and hitting 3-of-5 from the 3-point line.