Warriors' fate over final stretch lies with Steph, Draymond


SAN FRANCISCO – After losing complete control of their top priority in the regular season Sunday, the Warriors got a measure of satisfaction Tuesday with a victory that for much of the night had the earmarks of defeat.

The two primary ingredients in the comeback win over the New Orleans Pelicans are the same ingredients that will dictate Golden State’s fate over the next five games.

The first is that Stephen Curry is on the roster and healthy, and the second is that Draymond Green is, well, on the roster and healthy.

“It's pretty amazing to watch,” coach Steve Kerr said late Tuesday night. “These guys, they still got it. They're champions for a reason. It's harder now than it was before because of the decade-long run and the energy that it takes, but at their core, these guys are champions and it's going to come out.”

We don’t know how the last five regular-season games will go, and neither do the Warriors. But they surely realize who and what is at their essence. That much was reestablished in the 120-109 win over the Pelicans.

“Draymond lit a fire,” Curry said, referring to Green’s calculated volatile act in the second quarter, “and we were able to make the necessary adjustments and let our play speak for itself. I said after the game that we have to play better if we’re going to beat anybody in the playoffs.

“But not a lot of teams can do what we did based on the confidence we have in ourselves to come back like we did tonight.”

That confidence comes mostly from Curry and Green. For all the good and greatness that can come from Klay Thompson, Jordan Poole, Kevon Looney, Donte DiVincenzo, Gary Payton II, Jonathan Kuminga and the rest of the cast, Curry and Green are the dual commanders. Others can play starring roles. They are co-directors.

Green is Golden State’s spark and flame, and he was at his agitating, exhorting best Tuesday night. He is the team’s missile, generally guided but always audible and highly visible.

Curry has been too brilliant for too long to sneak up on opponents or surprise teammates. But his method of operation is subtle. He’s a torpedo, quietly saving his team and destroying the opponent beneath the surface.

“He doesn't say anything, but he's every bit the competitor that Draymond is,” Kerr said after Curry dropped 39 points on the Pelicans. “It's just that it comes out in a different manner. Steph’s a killer.”

Curry does it with a shot here, another there, and another after that. The Warriors came out of locker room after halftime and, trailing by 17, blasted off eight points in 76 seconds to trim the deficit to nine. Curry had a steal and assisted on two of the three field goals. He scored 13 points in the third quarter, 22 in the second half.

Poole scored 15 after halftime, Thompson 12. Green, meanwhile, scored only two points in 17 second-half minutes but had nine assists.

He did his most pivotal of work in the second quarter. Sensing the team needed a jolt – surprising considering the stakes – during a lackluster first half, Green threw a shoulder into Pelicans star Brandon Ingram and, a few seconds later, tried to bulldoze his way through Herbert Jones.

“I knew we needed a boost,” Green said. “We were just kind of flat. We had no energy. We let those guys get wherever they wanted to go.”

The Warriors took the cues.

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They outscored the Pelicans 74-46 after halftime. Outrebounded them 24-16. Outshot them from the field, 57.8 percent to 42.9, and from deep, 46.2 percent to 23.1. The Warriors got worked in the first half, losing every significant category, only to flip the stat sheet in the second half.

“It just brings out that competitive fire that we have demonstrated for a decade now,” Curry said of Green’s tactical tantrum. “And just understanding what it takes to will yourself out of a tough situation. I think I heard [Green] say not a lot of people can talk when they’re down 20, but it’s built off a belief and an understanding of who we are at our best and that kind of just competitive will that we’ve had.

“We’ve been in a lot of different situations over the course of these years and for whatever reason, no matter how bad we’ve played and how inconsistent we’ve been, we can pull of a night like tonight.”

Can Curry and Green do it every night? No. Can they do it most nights at home? Yes. Can they do it over the five games remaining on the regular-season schedule? If they can, the Warriors will fly. If not, it’ll be hard to avoid an ugly tumble.

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