Stephen Curry came off the bench to score 28 points in a triumphant return from a knee injury and nearly six weeks off, and the Golden State Warriors held off Anthony Davis and the pesky New Orleans Pelicans for a 121-116 win Tuesday night to go ahead 2-0 in the Western Conference semifinals.
Kevin Durant scored 29 points with a huge 3-pointer with 3:10 to play, to go with seven assists and six rebounds in Golden State’s franchise-record 14th consecutive postseason victory at Oracle Arena. Draymond Green contributed 20 points, 12 assists and nine rebounds while battling Davis on both ends all night.
Davis finished with 25 points and 15 rebounds, and Jrue Holiday had 24 points, eight rebounds and eight assists for the Pelicans, who also got 22 points and 12 assists from Rajon Rondo.
Andre Iguodala converted a snazzy 3-point play with 6:41 left when he flipped the ball up and it came back down and through the net as he was fouled by Rondo, then Golden State pulled away.
The best-of-seven series resumes with Game 3 on Friday at New Orleans.
Curry shot 8-for-15 with five 3-pointers and grabbed seven rebounds in 27 minutes. He let it fly for a 30-foot three in the closing minute of the third.
The two-time MVP stood along the bench early while anxiously waiting for his turn, shaking his legs and clapping his hands.
Then – mouthpiece dangling, of course – Curry finally checked in at the 4:20 mark of the first to a roaring ovation from the Oracle Arena crowd and immediately got to work. He knocked down a 3-pointer from the left wing.
The Warriors were focused on keeping their edge after a blowout Game 1 win.
Just the energy Curry brings helped that cause.
He swished his pregame tunnel shot on the second try just more than an hour before tip-off. Then the whole place came alive when No 30 made his first appearance on the floor.
Curry had been sidelined since spraining his left knee March 23, the same day he came back from a six-game absence with a right-ankle injury.
He already had a history of brilliant returns from injuries.
In late December against Memphis, Curry came back after being sidelined for 11 games with a sprained right ankle to score 38 points with 10 3-pointers.
Curry returned for Game 4 of the Warriors’ five-game Western Conference semifinals against Portland two years ago and made 16-of-32 shots with five 3-pointers and scored 17 points in overtime on the way to 40 in a 132-125 victory. He grabbed nine rebounds and dished out eight assists.
Warriors coach Steve Kerr expected it to take a couple of games for Curry to get his legs back under him – but he was still plenty dangerous in limited minutes.
”It’s exciting. It’ll be amazing in the arena. It’ll be electric,” Kerr said. ”I think we’re all looking forward to the moment. Hopefully he can settle in quickly.”
The game had its testy moments.
Curry made a bounce pass in transition to Iguodala late in the third and Solomon Hill was hit with a flagrant-1 for grabbing Iguodala’s neck area as he shot. That came 14 seconds after a double-technical against Davis and Green after they got tangled and rolled around and over each other.
Klay Thompson never found his groove and went 4-for-20, 2-of-11 on threes, and scored 10 points. Iguodala scored 15.
Green drove coast to coast for a 3-point play 2:08 before halftime, then Thompson banked in a three at the halftime buzzer for a 58-55 Warriors edge at intermission.
Even a balanced Pelicans attack – they took 105 shots – with all five starters scoring in double figures wasn’t enough to stop the explosive defending champions.
Pelicans: Nikola Mirotic fouled out with 2:43 left after scoring 18 points … The Pelicans scored 38 points in the paint the first two quarters … New Orleans went 13-for-37 from deep, 4-of-20 in the first half.
Warriors: Curry came off the bench for just the second time in 76 career-playoffs games … Nick Young started a second straight game … Golden State has won 26 of the last 28 meetings overall vs the Pelicans … Home run king Barry Bonds sat courtside.
Green had games of 19, 18 and 15 rebounds the previous three games and a triple-double in Game 1.
”I think the playoffs have energized him,” Kerr said.
”It was a lot more fun when I was over there,” Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry joked of preparing for the Warriors, referring to his time as Golden State’s top assistant in 2014-15.