With the short-handed Warriors needing help from someone — anyone
— to stop a three-game skid, O'Neal returned from right knee and
groin injuries that had sidelined him for four games and put up
season highs with 18 points and eight rebounds. It was just enough
to help lift Golden State to a 102-101 victory over the New Orleans
Pelicans on Tuesday night.
"I had a rough six or seven days, hadn't been able to practice, had
a viral infection, the groin injury, the knee injury, and I just
felt like sometimes when your back is against the wall you just go
out there and have fun, enjoy it," the 17-year pro said. "I prayed
about it and just went out there and did what I've been doing for so
many years, just playing the game."
O'Neal made his first seven shots and finished 9 of 12 from the
field, including the Warriors' final basket on a baseline hook that
made it 102-99 with about 2 minutes left.
Eric Gordon had a chance to win it for New Orleans with an open
3-pointer from the left corner in the final seconds, but the shot
rimmed out as the crowd, which was on its feet, started to cheer and
then suddenly groaned.
Anthony Davis couldn't quite reach the rebound, and Stephen Curry,
who had left Gordon alone to offer help defense on Jrue Holiday's
drive moments earlier, might have been the most relieved player on
the court after watching Holiday instead zip a pass to the corner.
"I'm sure they'd knock that shot down nine out of 10 times," Curry
said. "Thankfully, this is the only time he missed it."
Pelicans coach Monty Williams expressed considerably less gratitude.
"Eric gets a wide-open look, and it goes down and comes out," he
said. "This game is cruel. It's a cruel game."
Klay Thompson scored 22 points and tied a career high with eight
assists for the Warriors, who were without suspended center Andrew
Bogut, as well as several injured players, including swing man Andre
Iguodala (strained left hamstring) and guard Toney Douglass (stress
reaction, left tibia).
David Lee scored 19 points, capped by two big free throws with 2:34
Curry struggled to find his usual accuracy, missing 13 of 20 shots,
but scored seven of his 16 points in a tight fourth quarter for
Golden State. Harrison Barnes added 14 points.
[to top of second column]
"These games are character builders for us
because we're trying to do something special," O'Neal said. "Not
every game is going to be easy for us. We're going to have
nights like tonight where guys like myself are going to have to
Ryan Anderson had 21 points and 12 rebounds for New Orleans.
Davis finished with 14 points and 11 rebounds.
New Orleans appeared to be seizing momentum when Davis' dunk on
a pick-and-roll feed from Tyreke Evans tied it at 93.
Golden State called a timeout and responded with O'Neal's
11-foot turnaround jumper and Thompson's 3.
Holiday, who had 17 points, responded with a 3 and the Pelicans
eventually pulled to 100-99 when Davis tipped in an alley-oop
pass as he was fouled by Curry.
After O'Neal scored the go-ahead basket, Davis once again pulled
the Pelicans within a point with his vigorous, one-handed
putback jam of Evans' miss. Then each club missed its final
shot, leaving New Orleans just short of overcoming what had been
a 15-point deficit in the second quarter.
Gordon finished with 16 points for the Pelicans, who have lost
two straight. Jason Smith had 14 points and Evans 12.
"We have a lot of heart," Holiday said. "That hurt, though."
After being deemed fit in pregame warmups, O'Neal quickly
converted a driving dunk, a layup and a turnaround jumper from 9
Late in the opening quarter, Curry hit a layup and a 15-foot
jumper in succession, sparking an 11-0 run that Marreese
Speights capped with a tip-in to give Golden State a 28-18 lead
at the end of the period. The advantage grew to 45-30 on
Thompson's 3 before New Orleans, which shot below 40 percent
much of the first half, trimmed it to 57-49 at halftime.
NOTES: Golden State's Draymond Green had a career-high three
blocked shots. ... The Warriors play the second of their
four-game road swing Wednesday night in Dallas. ... The Pelicans
lost for the first time at home in five games.
Press; BRETT MARTEL, AP Sports Writer]
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