NEW ORLEANS (AP) As Lonzo Ball’s step-back jumper for the lead went down in the final 30 seconds, the Pelicans guard briefly turned toward the stands with his chest bowed out.
The scene stood in stark contrast to a night earlier, when Ball missed 15 of 18 shots in a lopsided loss and then apologetically texted teammate Zion Williamson with a pledge to do better.
Ball hit seven 3-pointers and capped a 33-point performance with a go-ahead shot and four clutch free throws in the final 25.3 seconds, and the Pelicans pulled out a crucial 108-103 victory over the Golden State Warriors on Tuesday night.
”I wanted to be there for the guys tonight, especially Zion, who’s going out every night and basically getting 30 (points) and 10 (rebounds) for us,” Ball said while explaining the motivation for his text to Williamson. ”For me, to have the type of performance I had (Monday), it’s unacceptable, especially at this time of the year. And I wanted to fix it.”
Stephen Curry, who had 37 points and hit eight 3s, missed a deep jumper that could have given Golden State the lead in the final 20 seconds. Mychal Mulder briefly appeared to have a long offensive rebound in his grasp when Williamson stole it and drew a clear path foul from Draymond Green.
Williamson, who had 23 points and 12 rebounds, hit his free throws. The Warriors then fouled Ball twice more after that, but Ball didn’t miss and New Orleans pulled within three games of a Western Conference play-in position with six contests remaining.
Afterward, Williamson praised Ball for holding himself accountable in his text and then bouncing back strong in the next game.
”You love to have teammates like that, you know, that say stuff like that and come the next day and show out,” Williamson said. ”That’s what I love about Lonzo. He just wants to win and will do whatever it takes.”
Eric Bledsoe scored 14 points and Brandon Ingram 13 for the Pelicans. But Ingram, one of New Orleans leading scorers, went to the locker room with 4:39 left in the third quarter because of a left ankle sprain and did not return.
Andrew Wiggins scored 26 points and Green contributed 12 rebounds and nine assists for the Warriors, who took the first of back-to-back games in New Orleans on Monday night, 123-108.
”Clearly, we were tired in the fourth,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. ”Give New Orleans credit. They made the plays that they had to, to win.”
Curry, however, disputed the notion that fatigue could have been a determining factor.
”The guys on the other side played the same minutes last night,” Curry said. ”That can’t be an excuse at all.”
Warriors: Curry’s first 3 of the night gave him 300 in a season for the fourth time in his career. … Curry and Wiggins were the only Warriors to reach double digits scoring. … Went 20 of 53 (37.7% from 3-point range). … Committed 18 turnovers, six by Green. … Attempted just seven free throws, making five.
Pelicans: Center Steven Adams played for the first time in four games and had eight rebounds before reinjuring his toe while diving to save a ball from going out of bounds in the second half. … Williamson’s double-double was his 14th this season. … Naji Marshall scored 10 points and Jaxson Hayes scored eight, including two baskets in the Pelicans’ final surge, to go with nine rebounds.
Although Curry produced at much the same rate as a night earlier – when he also made eight 3s and scored 41 – New Orleans played better offensively, which reduced Golden State’s transition chances. The Pelicans also defended more effectively off the ball, preventing players other than Curry from getting the type of easy baskets they’d gotten on Monday night.
Neither team led by double digits the entire game, but Golden State led for much of the second half before Ball helped spearhead a 29-18 run to close the game, twice tying the game with 3s in the final 3:18.
”This is a group that fights,” Pelicans coach Stan Van Gundy said. ”Last night we took a beating, but we came right back tonight and got down nine in the second half and just kept fighting. I am really happy for our guys. I am really, really proud of them.”
Golden State’s largest lead of the first half came when Poole’s 3 made it 50-43. But Ball and Williamson made consecutive driving layups and Ball added a 3 to tie it at 50.
After Curry’s 3 and floater lifted the Warriors back in front, Williamson responded with a pair of contested inside baskets, the last on a drive across the lane to pull the Pelicans to 57-56 at halftime.
Warriors: Play their final six games at home starting Thursday night against Oklahoma City.
Pelicans: Begin a five-game road trip in Philadelphia on Friday.
Courtesy: CBS Sports