For Warriors it was one game — but what a game
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Art Spander in Anthony Davis, Kevon Looney, Pelicans, Warriors, articles, basketball

By Art Spander

OAKLAND, Calif. — One game. That’s all it was, as Alvin Gentry, the New Orleans Pelicans coach, reminded.

So they got routed. Didn’t the Sharks lose one playoff game, 7-0, to Vegas and win the next in double overtime? Didn’t the Giants lose one game, 15-6, to the Dodgers and then win the next?

It doesn’t matter if you get outscored by 24-2 in a stretch of the second quarter — well, it does, because that’s the reason the Warriors were able to crush the New Orleans Pelicans, 123-101, Saturday night in the opener of their NBA Western Conference semifinal.

But you get the idea. It you lose by 20 or lose by two, it’s just one. It’s basketball, not golf. Your differential isn’t carried over. The points aren’t cumulative. The series is best of seven. This was just one game.

But what a game, one in which the Warriors, still without Steph Curry — but almost certainly he’ll be back Tuesday night when the teams meet once again at the Oracle, the “Roarcle,” and more about that later — were the team we had come to know: Focused, defensive, explosive, awesome.

“They’re still the champions,” Garry St. Jean, the former coach and general manager who’s now a TV commentator, told me before tipoff when I wondered how Golden State might respond. Wise words.

They played like champions. Particularly in the second quarter. The Warriors and Pelicans were tied, 39-39, a minute into the period. Then zap, flash, or as John Madden used to say, “Boom.” In the next 10 minutes, give a few seconds or so, the Dubs built a 76-48 lead.

“Well,” said Gentry, a former Warriors assistant, ”that didn’t go as planned.”

It did for the Warriors, who as Gentry conceded “are so disciplined in what they do, if you turn the ball over they are going to make you pay.”

Collecting at the cash box were guys such as Klay Thompson (27 points), Kevin Durant (26 points) and Draymond Green (16 points, 15 rebounds and 11 assists).

“They get out in the open court,” said Gentry, “and that’s what makes it tough.”

What helped make the Warriors was sub center Kevon Looney. He only had 3 points, but he was plus 34, meaning when he was on the court the Warriors outscored the Pelicans by 34.

“The stats sheet may not know it,” said Warriors coach Steve Kerr, “unless you look at the plus-minus. That’s a good number, 34. Loon’s had a great year. He’s a smart player, and he did a job on Davis.”

That’s Anthony Davis, the 7-footer called the “Brow” because his two eyebrows nearly touch. In the Pelicans’ sweep of the Portland Trail Blazers, Davis averaged 33 points. On Saturday night, he had 21 and was minus 27.

“I thought Looney was the key for us,” said Kerr, “but I thought the defense in general was great and that was the most important aspect of the game.

“The defense allowed us to get going in the second quarter and get out in transition and break things open.”

That's when the usual sellout crowd of 19,596, the Warriors’ 284th straight, broke loose. After a couple of months of indifferent play, of play without (at times) Thompson, Curry, Durant and Green, the team was a bit of a mystery and the fans were a bit disenchanted. But as the Dubs opened up, so did the spectators.

“They really show up for the playoffs,” said Thompson. “It’s why we play. At the end of the day we’re entertainers, and when you get a crowd like that, it really uplifts our whole team.”

In an interesting move, Kerr, who later explained he wanted to go small to match the Pelicans’ quickness, started Nick Young at forward along with Durant. Green was at center, Thompson and Andre Iguodala at guards. Not that it matters a great deal with Warrior players shifting on defense.

“It all starts with the defense,” said Green, who at times covered Davis, the big man, and at times the point guard Rajon Rondo.

“Starts and stops and deflections,” said Green. “We can push the tempo. Klay was shooting lights out. My job is to be the catalyst, to make sure everyone’s on the same page.”

They were for one game. One game that was one tremendous game.

Article originally appeared on Art Spander (http://artspander.com/).
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