Breaking Down the Golden State Warriors’ Miraculous Comeback


Down 17 with 5:59 left in the game, nobody in the Smoothie King Center could have predicted the game ending in anything else but a Pelicans victory, except for the guys in blue.

In perhaps what was the strongest overall performance from the Pelicans in this series, the Warriors simply refused to roll over despite playing atrociously for three full quarters. Anthony Davis dominated the game with 29 points and 15 rebounds. The Pelicans could not have played a more perfect game up until the latter half of the fourth quarter, when everything began to crumble.

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The biggest concern for the Pelicans going into this game was whether or not they would receive solid bench contributions. They got what they wished for as New Orleans’ bench outscored the Warriors reserves 58 to 24.

Ryan Anderson, who had been a non-factor in games 1 and 2, came up huge for the Pelicans scoring 26 points while absolutely torching whoever the Warriors threw at him. Norris Cole joined Anderson in leading the scoring blitz during the second quarter, providing  a much needed spark with his 16 points. The Pelicans outscored the Warriors 37 to 27 in the second, and made Golden State’s first-ranked defense look like a turnstile as they were essentially getting whatever they wanted in the paint.

The Pelicans looked like they brought the hammer down in the third quarter and half of the fourth. All hope seemed to be lost when no other Warrior besides Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson could buy a shot all game.

The offense stagnated. Careless passes were thrown. Anderson couldn’t miss. Davis was blocking Marreese Speights left and right. The Pelicans were ready to bring this series to 2-1 and carry their momentum into the next game, hoping to tie up the series on Saturday. However, several key factors allowed the Warriors to mount a furious rally that culminated in a historical moment that basketball fans will never be able to forget.

Offensive Rebounding 

It wasn’t finesse and threes that pushed the Warriors back into the game. It was their grit and grind (sorry Memphis) that gave them the advantage.

Despite Andrew Bogut seeing limited playing time, the Warriors absolutely dominated the offensive glass in the fourth quarter. The Warriors managed to grab 12 offensive boards in the fourth alone, and totaled at 22 for the game. Although Green was unable to stop Anderson or Davis, his heart and determination played an important role in the victory. Seven of his 17 total rebounds were on the offensive end. He corralled several rebounds that converted into either a putback layup or a better shot from his teammates.

Harrison Barnes, who hadn’t done anything meaningful prior to the fourth, came up huge in the waning mnutes of the game. His huge putback slam off a missed Stephen Curry three propelled a 10-0 run from the Warriors that would bring the game to overtime.

Shaun Livingston, who added 12 points of his own, grabbed key offensive rebounds himself including another ferocious slam off his own miss. Before Curry’s incredible three, Speights grabbed the most important rebound of the game and dished out arguably the greatest assist of his career. The Pelicans’ complete inability to box out allowed the Warriors to chip away one basket at a time, eventually leading to one of the greatest comebacks and worst collapses in playoff history.


Apr 23, 2015; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Pelicans forward Anthony Davis (23) reacts as he shoots over Golden State Warriors center Andrew Bogut (12) in overtime in game three of the first round of the NBA Playoffs at the Smoothie King Center. The Warriors defeated the Pelicans 123-119 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

The Warriors were eventually able to implement their transition game with their defense in the fourth. While Ryan Anderson got his, no other Pelican had it going offensively. New Orleans became complacent with their lead and started settling for tougher shots as the game clock ticked down.

The Warriors’ small ball lineup of Curry, Klay Thompson, Shaun Livingston, Draymond Green, and Barnes/Andre Iguodala gave New Orleans fits in the fourth quarter. Even with Davis on the floor, the Warriors’ length and quickness gave the Pelicans problems.

It was the Warriors’ suffocating defense that kickstarted their transition offense. Though they weren’t always able to convert their transition baskets on the first attempt, they were able to secure many second chance attempts, thanks to the Pelicans failing to box out or get back in time.

Green was able to read passing lanes correctly and disrupted the Pelicans’ stagnant offense enough to spark fast breaks. Thompson and Livingston were also able to shutdown the Pelicans’ backcourt in the fourth. Tyreke Evans missed several contested layups which gave the Warriors just what they needed.

Experience and Execution

Ultimately, Monty Williams and his Pelicans were out coached by Steve Kerr and his staff. Even during the third quarter, Kerr trusted his lineup enough to let them keep playing.

He allowed Curry to rest for some much-needed minutes before subbing back in for the final run. Conversely, Monty Williams failed to make adequate adjustments. Davis played 46 minutes, which undoubtedly contributed to his fatigue and lack of impact in the fourth.

Apr 23, 2015; New Orleans, LA, USA; Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr reacts against the New Orleans Pelicans during the fourth quarter in game three of the first round of the NBA Playoffs at the Smoothie King Center. The Warriors defeated the Pelicans 123-119 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

When the Warriors killed the Pelicans with offensive boards, Omer Asik was nowhere to be seen. When Anderson was red hot, he didn’t see the ball again after the 4:05 mark of the fourth quarter. He made a late three during overtime to bring the Pelicans within one, but oddly enough, didn’t get the ball again after that. Evans and Eric Gordon took many questionable shots that should have gone to Davis or Anderson.

Perhaps the Pelicans’ most fatal error was failing to foul any Warrior when it was obvious they needed a three to tie the game. They had an opportunity to foul Speights or Curry before the latter’s miraculous three to force overtime.

The Pelicans had countless chances to put the game away, but their failure to execute down the stretch coupled with the Warriors’ resiliency ultimately decided the outcome of the series.

The Pelicans, while a solid team with a generational talent in Davis, simply lacked the experience to seal the game and allowed a comeback for the ages. No team has ever come back to win the series from a 3-0 deficit and the Warriors will make sure it won’t happen.