The New Orleans Pelicans, energised by a return to their home court, dominated the reigning champion Golden State Warriors in a 119-100 NBA playoff win as Houston reasserted themselves against the Utah Jazz.
Anthony Davis scored 33 points with 18 rebounds and four steals and Pelicans point guard Rajon Rondo dished out 21 assists to keep the New Orleans offense clicking.
The Pelicans outscored Golden State 54-36 in the paint and drained 14 three-pointers as they whittled the deficit to 2-1 in their best-of-seven Western Conference series.
The Pelicans will have a chance to even things up when they host game four on Sunday.
“We just did what we were supposed to do,” Davis said. “Of course it was a big game for us. We didn’t want to go down 0-3. But we got our big one tonight and now we’ll try to get ready for Sunday.”
Warriors coach Steve Kerr wasn’t surprised to see the Pelicans respond after dropping the first two games in Oakland.
“On their home floor, down 2-0, this is what you expect,” Kerr said of the intensity the Pelicans displayed from the opening tip-off.
— NBA on TNT (@NBAonTNT) May 5, 2018
“Their defense was great. They were the aggressors. I thought they brought the necessary force to the game on their home floor.”
New Orleans drained 10 three-pointers in the first 24 minutes, leading by as many as 15 en route to a 62-56 halftime margin.
Jrue Holiday helped set the tone, scoring 11 of his 21 points in the first quarter.
Warriors star Stephen Curry, back in the starting lineup after coming off the bench in his return from a knee injury in game two, mustered only three points in the opening quarter, when sharp-shooter Klay Thompson was held scoreless.
Thompson scored 20 of his 26 points in the second quarter, but finished making just nine of his 22 attempts from the field.
Kevin Durant added 22 points and Curry finished with 19 points on six-of-19 shooting for the Warriors.
“Game two is always the hardest when you come back from injury,” Kerr said of Curry’s struggles. “He didn’t look as sharp with his movement. Obviously he didn’t make his shots, but more than that it was just about the energy, the legs. But that’ll come.”
Western conference top seeds Houston, stung by a game-two defeat on their home floor, responded with a vengeance in Salt Lake City, where they thrashed the Utah Jazz 113-92.
Houston took a 2-1 lead in the Western Conference series which continues on Sunday at Utah.
James Harden scored 25 points with 12 assists for Houston. Eric Gordon added another 25 points in a merciless display by a Rockets team that led the league with 65 regular-season victories.
Royce O’Neale led the Jazz with 17 points as Houston’s stifling defense shut down game-two standouts Donovan Mitchell and Joe Ingles.
Mitchell connected on just four of 16 from the field for 10 points while Ingles, who scored 27 points in game two, finished with six points on two-of-10 shooting.
“We didn’t give up any easy looks,” Harden said. “We contested every shot.”
— Houston Rockets (@HoustonRockets) May 5, 2018
After a game-two performance that Harden described as “lackadaisical,” Houston came out with laser-like focus, scoring from the field n six of their first seven possessions.
Their 39 points in the first quarter had the Jazz reeling – which was just what the Rockets had in mind.
“We were going to be the aggressor,” Harden said of the team’s mindset after their stumble at home.
“Game two, they dictated the tempo, they came out and kind of punched us in the mouth with a 36-point quarter.
“So we wanted to kind of do that same thing – and we did.”
Kyle Lowry led the way in the 102-92 win by scoring a team-high 24 points, while grabbing six rebounds and six assists.
“He’s a huge part of our success, or our non-success,” James said.
“If we want to have any success, either in a Game 7 or move on to the next round, Kev has to be a big part of that.”
Love has so far struggled in the first round, averaging 11.0 points on just 32.4 per cent shooting overall and 37.0 per cent shooting from long range.