LOS ANGELES (AFP) – Golden State erased a 20-point deficit to beat the New Orleans Pelicans 120-109 on Tuesday, with Stephen Curry scoring 39 points as the Warriors edged ahead of Minnesota into sixth place in the Western Conference.
Curry drained five of his eight three-pointers in the second half as the reigning NBA champion Warriors came alive, surging past the Pelicans to win a sometimes sloppy, often scrappy contest and boost their chances of avoiding the play-in tournament for teams placed seventh through 10th in each conference.
Golden State star Draymond Green and New Orleans’ Brandon Ingram received double technical fouls with 3:45 left in the second quarter after they exchanged words in the wake of Green’s foul on the Pelicans player – which was upgraded to a flagrant.
Green’s collision with Herbert Jones sparked some more shoving, and with 14 turnovers in the testy first half, the Warriors were down 17 at the break.
They opened the third quarter on an 8-0 scoring run and had cut the deficit to four points going into the fourth.
“We started playing with some heart and intensity,” Green said of the difference in the second half.
Jordan Poole’s reverse layup early in the fourth gave the Warriors their first lead since the first quarter, 95-94, and they didn’t trail again.
Poole scored 13 of his 21 points in the fourth quarter, and Klay Thompson added 17 for the Warriors.
Ingram led the Pelicans with 26 points and Trey Murphy added 21, but New Orleans coach Willie Green said his team’s lackluster start to the third quarter was fatal.
“We started, I believe it was eight-zip,” he said. “Two turnovers. You can’t give this team any life. Once they get going, once this building gets going, it’s tough to stop them.”
Elsewhere, the Boston Celtics’ chances of overtaking the Milwaukee Bucks for the top seed in the East took a hit with an ugly 130-111 loss to the lowly Washington Wizards.
Perhaps caught looking ahead to a Thursday clash with the Bucks, the Celtics were lackadaisical on defence, unable to stop a Wizards team missing two key players in Bradley Beal and Kyle Kuzma.
Kristaps Porzingis scored 32 points for the Wizards and Deni Avdija added 25.
Jayson Tatum returned from a one-game absence to lead the Celtics with 28 points. Marcus Smart had four three-pointers in the first half, but overall, Boston connected on just 11 of 44 from three-point range.
They trailed by 13 at halftime and by as many as 23 in the second half.
“It was just one of those nights,” Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla said. “Very rarely has that happened to our team. Just one of those off nights.”
The Toronto Raptors outscored the Miami Heat 62-36 in the paint in a 106-92 victory.
Pascal Siakam scored 26 points and Scottie Barnes added 22 along with a career-high 12 assists for the Raptors – as the Heat failed to gain ground in their bid to avoid the play-in round.
With Jimmy Butler sidelined by a sore neck, the Heat dropped a second straight game.
Tyler Herro scored 33 points and Bam Adebayo added 21 points and 12 rebounds for Miami, who cut the deficit to 10 with less than four minutes to play only for their charge to stall.
Dejounte Murray starred late as the Atlanta Hawks edged the playoff-bound Cleveland Cavaliers 120-118.
Murray made three free throws to put the Hawks up 115-113 with 2:14 remaining, then came up with a steal and a basket that pushed the lead to four in the final minute.