NEW ORLEANS — The New Orleans Pelicans never doubted they could do this.
Despite losing the first two games of their Western Conference semifinals to the Golden State Warriors, the Pelicans always believed that better performances were within them. After running over the Warriors in a 119-100 Game 3 victory, that confidence will only grow stronger. Anthony Davis had a monster night going off for 33 points and 18 rebounds while Rajon Rondo came through with 21 assists and 10 rebounds of his own, one fewer assist than the entire Warriors team combined. The Pelicans controlled the tempo throughout the night, never allowing the Warriors’ vaunted offense to develop any rhythm.
Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry continued to fuel his team with belief throughout the past few days, reiterating before Friday’s contest that the Pelicans knew they could beat the Warriors at their own game — running and gunning up the floor against stars Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant. The key for Gentry in Game 3 was that his team played with a defensive ferocity that set the tone throughout the night.
The Warriors weren’t getting a lot of clean looks and weren’t able to push the tempo like they usually do. Warriors swingman Klay Thompson bounced back after a 4-for-20 performance in Game 2 with 26 points in Game 3, but Curry was held to 19 points, going just 6-for-19 from the field. Golden State could never find the answers it needed against a hungry New Orleans group that came ready to play. Once Davis got rolling, nothing could stop him.
“I don’t remember exactly when it was but that was the message,” Davis said. “We can’t lose this game. It’s always tough to come back from 0-3, but our mindset is to go out there and play. Do what we’re supposed to do, follow the game plan and whatever results happen, happen. And we followed the game plan to a T tonight and was able to come out with the win.”
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The Pelicans’ bench gave Gentry another big contribution, outscoring the Warriors’ reserves 32-20. Pelicans guard Ian Clark led the way for New Orleans, lighting up Golden State for 18 points in 21 minutes. Rondo and Draymond Green continued their series-long exchange of trash talk, but it was Rondo who earned the last laugh in Game 3 — as a raucous sellout crowd in Smoothie King Center gave the Pelicans several standing ovations throughout the night.
“We understand that we won one game and Game 4 will be the toughest game that we’ve ever had,” Gentry said. “And we understand that about them. But I don’t think our confidence has wavered, and it shouldn’t, because we think that we’re a good basketball team and we think when we play to the level that we’re capable of playing that we do have an opportunity to play and win the game against anyone. That’s the way you have to be, I think.”
Game 4 is Sunday afternoon in New Orleans.