OAKLAND (AP) — Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr likes to say his team teeters on “explosive and careless” basketball, pulling off an astonishing play one moment and a perplexing one the next.
Kerr saw both extremes Monday night.
And the better half was just good enough to defend home court.
Klay Thompson scored 26 points, Stephen Curry had 22 points and six assists and the Warriors regrouped from an early deficit to beat the New Orleans Pelicans 97-87 and take a 2-0 lead in their first-round playoff series.
“We still get excited at times and do some crazy things. I kind of like the fact that we walk that line,” Kerr said. “It’s what makes us who we are.”
The top-seeded Warriors fell behind by 13 points in the first quarter after a strong start by Anthony Davis and Eric Gordon quieted an announced sellout crowd of 19,596 wearing golden yellow shirts. But a big burst before halftime pushed the Warriors ahead, and their defense clamped down in the closing moments to put away the pesky Pelicans.
Game 3 of the best-of-seven series is Thursday night in New Orleans.
Davis had 26 points and 10 rebounds, and Gordon scored 23 points for a Pelicans team that played with more poise and passion than it did in the series opener.
“We just have to stick with it,” Gordon said.
“We’re playing the best team in the league and we’re fighting tooth and nail,” Pelicans coach Monty Williams added. “Our guys are grouping up on the fly.”
In the end, the Warriors were just better when it mattered most.
Golden State turned up the NBA’s top-rated defense late, holding the Pelicans to 35 points in the second half. New Orleans shot just 37.8 for the game.
Davis still pulled the Pelicans within one in the final minutes before Green and center Andrew Bogut — Golden State’s defensive stoppers — helped the Warriors shut down New Orleans again.
Thompson converted a running bank shot over Gordon to start a three-point play, and Bogut followed with a two-handed slam to give Golden State a 97-86 lead with 1:02 left, fending off a tougher-than-expected fight from the West’s eighth seed.
“We know we’re going to have turnovers or lapses. But it’s the defense that won us the game,” Thompson said.
The Warriors have won 20 straight games and 41 of 43 at home this season. Their last loss at Oracle Arena came against Chicago in overtime on Jan. 27.
New Orleans shook of all those marks — and all the pregame chatter — to nearly pull off a playoff surprise.
Williams riled up the Warriors’ vocal fan base before the morning shootaround, saying the decibel level at Oracle Arena might not be legal. Williams later said he meant it more as a compliment and didn’t mean to suggest the Warriors were breaking any rules.
Fans seemed to pounce on Williams’ words. Chants of “War-ri-ors!” drowned out the Pelicans during pregame introductions, but they figured out a way to control the crowd: get off to a fast start.
New Orleans made five of its first six shots and got big contributions from Gordon and Davis to go ahead 28-17 after the first quarter. Reserve guard Leandro Barbosa (12 points) and the backups brought the Warriors back in the second quarter, though Pelicans super sub Norris Cole countered with some big shots of his own.
Of course, the Pelicans struggled to corral Curry and Thompson in the key moments.
They helped the Warriors outscore New Orleans 38-24 in the second quarter, with Curry capping the run with a deep 3-pointer to give Golden State a 55-52 halftime lead. The Warriors went up by nine early in the third quarter, and the teams were tied 71-all entering the fourth.
“We know that we can beat this team,” Davis said. “We were right there. They made shots, and we didn’t.”
PELICANS ON POINT
Cole played heavier minutes at backup point guard in place of Jrue Holiday, who sat out with soreness in his lower right leg. He helped spell starter Tyreke Evans, who played with a bone bruise in his left knee. Evans had 16 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists. Cole had 11 points in 28 minutes.
Pelicans: New Orleans is 1-5 against Golden State this season. ... Center Omer Asik went to the locker room in the second quarter with a neck laceration but returned for the start of the third.
Warriors: The last time Golden State took a 2-0 lead in a playoff series was in the first round against Utah in 1989. The Warriors swept the three-game series.
SPOTTED IN THE CROWD
Sacramento Kings owner Vivek Ranadive, a former minority investor with the Warriors, sat on a baseline seat wearing a purple Kings shirt. ... Rapper “E-40” was in attendance wearing a blue Warriors shirt and a thick gold chain.