By Erik Malinowski
OAKLAND, Calif. -- Before we get to basketball and other matters of tangible importance, let's talk about the volume inside Oracle Arena, since this has become a topic of National Importance since Game 1 concluded. Pelicans coach Monty Williams made a stink about the din in his comments before Game 2, ever-so-slightly in good fun but with more than a small kernel of truth, in all likelihood.
So, is the noise inside Oracle Arena too loud, as Williams contends? Sorry, that's a matter of personal taste. You'd have to be here in person to make your own judgment. But a full-throated, rabid Oracle Arena crowd is, in the classic tradition of loud sporting venues, a rousing, home-team advantage. You can't touch the sound, but you know it's there. You feel it on you, like you're treading water in a pool of pure emotion, these waves of audio discharge encasing you from every direction, deflecting this way, that, and back again. Inevitably, you have little recourse but to let the pure joy -- let's be clear, they're a very happy bunch in Oakland these days -- wash over you, no matter your affiliation.
In the end, it was this electricity, combined with a furiously effective defensive effort, that propelled the Warriors to a charged 97-87 win to take a commanding 2-0 series lead that now shifts to the Crescent City for Game 3 on Thursday night.
"The defense carried the day," said Warriors coach Steve Kerr. "This game was much more indicative of our team than Game 1."
The Warriors have now won, with playoffs included, 41 of 43 games (.953) at Oracle Arena this season. That already puts them among some all-time great teams. Golden State's opponents' winning percentage in this building has become little more than a rounding error.
And the most frustrating thing for the Pelicans, once again, is that they didn't play an especially poor game. They pulled out to an impressive 28-17 lead after one and stayed more or less competitive as they game progressed. The Warriors clawed back and took a slim, three-point lead at the halftime break. The pendulum could still have swung either way.
Then the second half began, with the Warriors led by nearly 20,000 manics dressed in yellow and screaming from the depths of their souls, at times rising with every jump shot as if lifted from their seats by marionette strings. It felt, at times, more like an awakening than a basketball game.
New Orleans made a grand total of nine field goals in the second half. The Pels shot 25.7 percent across quarters three and four, the lowest that any opponent has held them in the second half all season. And Anthony Davis, whom Kerr dubbed a future MVP, was held without a field goal in the fourth quarter. He scored 20 points in the fourth quarter of Game 1; he had just six in Game 2's final frame, all on free throws.
Kerr's plan for this series has been to let Davis do his thing and keep everyone else in his team's defensive crosshairs. Keeping the freakishly talented 22-year-old from being a late-game force? That would be a more-than-acceptable result as far as Golden State is concerned.
Another welcome development was the contribution from the Warriors' second unit. Leandro Barbosa led the bench with 12 points and looked positively spry at times, running the floor and streaking to the rim. Marreese Speights and Shaun Livingston didn't put gaudy stats, but kept the energy high and played crucial minutes at the start of the fourth quarter in a tie game. And Andre Iguodala, playing in his 50th career playoff game, capped off a crucial 7-0 Golden State run with 9:13 to play in the fourth, slamming down an alley-oop from Draymond Green's lob.
A quick sidebar on Green's performance: It was transcendent in the way teams who win championships depend on top-flight performances in the playoffs from their third- or -fourth-best players. Steph Curry and Klay Thompson -- we haven't even uttered their names yet, though they collectively scored 48 points, dished out eight dimes and essentially pulled their team back all night from the specter of defeat -- were their usual Splash Bro-y selves, but Green contributed to every phase of the game in an understated yet still dramatic way. He tormented the Pelicans rotation all evening, while compiling what felt like his typical 14 points, 12 boards, and five assists, along with two steals. He is the WD-40 that keeps this Warriors machine from creaking. As Green goes, so will Golden State. (You seriously think the Warriors aren't going to pay him every dollar he wants during this offseason?)
And just as the Pelicans' fate was finally coming into focus, Curry crossed the center-court line with 2:15 left and a six-point lead. Kerr called for a timeout, but the crowd so overwhelmed the referee's whistle that the players didn't immediately stop. Once they did, Curry stood with the ball on the team logo, mouthpiece half-dangling from his mouth, as if he could control basketball and the whims of 20,000 people and maybe even end the California drought, if he only so desired. Nothing seemed out of bounds.
But here's the kicker: Curry didn't even score in the fourth quarter. He didn't need to. After play resumed, Golden State reeled off five more unanswered points, pushed the lead to 11, and sealed the game, possibly the series.
No matter what, New Orleans now needs to win here at least once at Oracle Arena to have any chance of pulling off a historic upset. Both the Warriors -- and their fans -- will have much to say about that.
Erik Malinowski is a freelance writer in the Bay Area. Follow him on Twitter @erikmal.