Spander: No secrets: Better, smarter, stingier team won 

OAKLAND — It took so long this time. The Warriors won it, because at the end they had the better team, and they were playing at home, at Oracle Arena, where losing is as rare as California rain. But they had to work, because playoff basketball is as much about adjustments as personnel.

Game 1, it was the Warriors start to finish, and the misconception was Game 2 would be a duplicate. That doesn’t happen in the NBA.

There are too many smart coaches, too many videotape machines. “This is what we did,” someone says, pointing out the mistakes, “and this is what we’re going to do.”

What the New Orleans Pelicans did Monday night was play excellent defense, hit big baskets and keep the Warriors and the sellout crowd of 19,596 gasping until almost the end. Finally, the W’s came out with a 97-87 win they had to have to take a firm grip on the series.

“It was just fantastic,” a relieved coach Steve Kerr said about the comeback. “The first and third quarters were rough. We started overdribbling and attacking where there was no space. But the second and fourth quarters were great.”

A New Orleans victory would have changed everything. The Pelicans not would have stolen the game but the home court advantage that is so precious, especially when the home court is Oakland, the Oracle, a place so noisy and raucous the other coach was moved to complain.

“This is exactly the way we thought it would be,”Kerr said of the battle. “These are the playoffs. New Orleans is an excellent team.”

But now having won the first two games of a playoff series for the first since 1989, the W’s head to the Big Easy with a lead that may not be safe but is reassuring — especially after a horrible first quarter, when flummoxed by the Pelicans, they shot 31.8 percent and trailed 28-17.

After this great regular season, 67 wins, the W’s were going to fall apart? No, they just were going to be reminded that everybody in the NBA is a professional, in more than just name.

“We have to get off to a good start,” the Warriors’ Stephen Curry said about Game 3 on Thursday, which certainly they failed to do in this one, heaving up wild 3-pointers and watching balls by the Pelicans flit through nets.

“The first six minutes of those games on the road are very important to set the tone. Hopefully our defense travels like it did all year.”

It was there in the fourth quarter Monday night, the Pelicans getting outscored in that period 26-16.

Curry would finish with 22 points, four fewer than teammate Klay Thompson, who had 14 of those in the fourth quarter. The Pelicans’ super big man, Anthony Davis, scored 26.

But Davis was 0-for-5 from the floor in the fourth quarter. “Down the stretch,” said Pelicans coach Monty Williams, the man who whined about the loud fans at Oracle, “I think we all fumbled a little bit.”

Asked the key to success, Curry gave the expected response. “Taking care of the basketball,” he said, “getting stops so we can get in transition and make it easy on ourselves.”

But it was very hard on Monday.

“We just have to grind it out,” he reminded.

That’s what always is demanded in the postseason. Teams play each other again and again. There is a familiarity that brings both respect and a comfort on how to deal with the opponent.

“We’ve got to get better with our decision-making,” Kerr said. “We always sort of walk the line. This team, between explosive and careless. I thought the first quarter we were trying for hero shots. I thought the third quarter we starting playing one-on-one again.”

They survived those quarters and progressed the other two.

Which sort of was what Kerr predicted in a pregame briefing. Someone, alluding to Game 1, when the Pelicans had only 13 points the first quarter, wondered what the W’s would do if they didn’t get off as quickly in Game 2.

“We just play better the rest of the game,” he said.

And mostly, they did just that.

Art Spander has been covering Bay Area sports since 1965 and also writes on Email him at

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Art Spander

Art Spander

Art Spander has been covering Bay Area sports since 1965 and also writes on and Email him at
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