I’d like to say I never doubted.
But the Warriors had played three of their worst quarters of the season. They appeared to be stunned by the relentless onslaught of the Pelicans, who were energized by a New Orleans crowd watching its first home playoff game in four years. I spent that time folding laundry and scowling as the Dubs took bad shots, turned the ball over, and utterly failed to play the tenacious D they’re known for.
At the start of the 3rd quarter it was 89-69 Pelicans, and while a comeback from that was not a physical impossibility, it did not seem likely. The Warriors didn’t really need this game, anyway; I would have been fine letting New Orleans have its moment, then crushing them in Game 4.
The players on the floor had other ideas. After looking lost for three quarters, the Dubs could suddenly do no wrong, making clutch shot after clutch shot, getting offensive rebound after offensive rebound. They got it to 12 with 4:39 left, 10 with 3:56 left, then 8 with 3:34 to go, at which point the Pelicans took a timeout.
And they needed one. Basketball is a game of momentum, and when a big lead starts to slip away — especially when you’re a young team playing a heavy favorite — you start to get that “uh-oh” feeling. You could see it on the faces of the New Orleans fans, who seemed to know what was coming. These excerpts from the scoresheet tell the story:
3:12 Anthony Davis makes two point shot (105-95 Pelicans)
2:47 Klay Thompson makes two point shot (105-97 Pelicans)
2:14 Draymond Green makes two point shot (105-99 Pelicans)
1:49 Jrue Holiday misses 32-foot three point jumper
1:39 Draymond Green makes two point shot (105-101 Pelicans)
1:23 Tyreke Evans misses layup
0:49 Eric Gordon misses three point jumper
0:30 Klay Thompson misses 3-foot jumper
0:27 Draymond Green misses tip shot
0:27 Draymond Green offensive rebound
0:22 Harrison Barnes misses 24-foot three point jumper
0:24 Shaun Livingston offensive rebound
0:21 Jrue Holiday shooting foul (Shaun Livingston draws the foul)
0:21 Shaun Livingston makes free throw 1 of 2 (105-102 Pelicans)
0:17 Shaun Livingston personal foul (Jrue Holiday draws the foul)
0:17 Jrue Holiday makes free throw 1 of 2 (106-102 Pelicans)
0:17 Jrue Holiday makes free throw 2 of 2 (107-102 Pelicans)
0:11 Stephen Curry makes 24-foot three point jumper (Draymond Green assists) (107-105 Pelicans)
0:09 Draymond Green personal foul (Anthony Davis draws the foul)
0:09 Anthony Davis misses free throw 1 of 2
And that right there was the crucial moment. Even after Davis made the second, it was still a three-point game, 108-105. And then this happened.
And the game should have ended right there, with Steph Curry going to the free-throw line to complete the 4-point play; but somehow no foul was called and we were forced to endure five minutes of overtime. There was no way the Pelicans were going to recover from the body blow they’d just received, and though there were some touch-and-go moments in the extra period, the result was inevitable. There was loud rejoicing all over Northern California while the children of New Orleans cried themselves to sleep.
Afterward The Old Man texted me this:
Game 3 haiku:
Forget that Jesus.
Game 4 is Saturday in N.O., and my guess is that the Pelicans are irreparably broken, and they will lay down like lambs. But maybe they will find a way to rally and salvage one game for pride, giving the Warriors the opportunity to clinch the series at home on Tuesday. Either way, we will not soon forget the Miracle at the Smoothie King Center.*
* A terrible name, both for an arena and a miracle. Maybe someone will come up with a better one at some point.