NEW ORLEANS – With their unforgettable overtime victory in Game 3 Thursday night in New Orleans, the Warriors administered a harsh lesson to the Pelicans and served pointed notice to the rest of the NBA:
We can make your sizable margin disappear in minutes.
The Pelicans led Game 3 by 20 points entering the fourth quarter, before the Warriors pushed the game into overtime, winning it 123-119.
That’s the power of a few minutes of furious defense and of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson bombing from deep.
"Even though we looked like crap for three and a half quarters," center Andrew Bogut said Friday, "we know that unless we're down by 40 or 50 going into that fourth quarter, we're in striking distance with the way the Splash Brothers shoot the ball and the way we can shoot the ball from 3."
Giant comebacks are not new to the Warriors. Pick a month, almost any month, over the past two years and you're likely to find a game in which they left an opponent wondering what happened and muttering about the loss they didn't see coming.
There was the game at Boston last month in which the Warriors trailed by 26 before rallying to victory. They were down 22 to the Mavericks in the first half on Feb. 4 before rising up to win by 14.
Even two years ago, in the playoffs, they trailed San Antonio by eight with five minutes left in Game 4, only to come back to win in OT.
"We put ourselves in position to win the game and it's frustrating because we feel like we gave it away," is how Spurs star Tim Duncan put it after that loss in May 2013.
"Against a team like this, you can't relax. You've got to keep being aggressive and we missed shots. . . . We've got to do a better job executing and following our game plan, especially late in the game."
That's what New Orleans star Anthony Davis said late Thursday night.
Behind Stephen Curry and Draymond Green – two players motivated by constantly having to prove they're worthy – these Warriors are built for this. It might even be in their collective DNA.
In the 17 minutes after the third quarter, the Warriors scored 54 points. That extrapolates to almost 160 points over 48 minutes. The Pelicans scored 30 points over the same span, or about 85 points over the same time period.
Curry scored a game-high 40 points, 17 of which came after the third quarter, to fire up the offense late in Game 3 on Thursday. Green did the dirty work, collecting a game-high 17 rebounds – 12 after halftime – while defending Davis.
"As we showed at the end of the game, if we're down 12 or 14 points, it's only a couple of minutes. It's three minutes of good play that can get us back in it," coach Steve Kerr said.
"So if we're down 15 in the middle of third quarter, we can't be acting like there is a minute and a half left. We've got to stay the course, and that's part of the evolution of our team I need to make sure that we get to."
Consider that a warning. The explosive Warriors always believe they can win. They often do. They can come back with the best of them, yet they are continuing to master the art.