Sun, 20 Jun 2021

Points, not playoffs, in view as Warriors face Pelicans

Field Level Media
14 May 2021, 10:05 GMT+10

The focus will shift from the playoff race to the chase for the NBA scoring title when the Golden State Warriors play host to the New Orleans Pelicans on Friday night.

With four consecutive victories to open a run of six games that will close out the regular season, the Warriors (37-33) almost surely will have their play-in tournament positioning determined when they face the Memphis Grizzlies in the schedule's finale on Sunday.

So for one night, anyway, Warriors fans can focus their scoreboard-watching on the Eastern Conference, where Washington's Bradley Beal has some catching up to do in his duel with the Warriors' Stephen Curry for the league's scoring honors.

Curry leads the NBA with 31.8 points per game, while Beal is at 31.4. The Philadelphia 76ers' Joel Embiid is a distant third at 29.2.

Curry rallied from well off the pace to pass Beal this month on the strength of a 21-game stretch in which he averaged 37.4 points. That run included a 53-point game against the Denver Nuggets and six other 40-point games, highlighted by a 49-point effort in Saturday's home win over Oklahoma City.

Beal has missed his team's last two games with a hamstring injury and when the Wizards host the Cleveland Cavaliers on Friday night, the standout guard is questionable to play.

Curry fell back a bit toward his competition when he was held to 21 in Tuesday's win over Phoenix.

It is possible Beal will miss Washington's final two regular-season games as well, which would give Curry a stationary target. If that were the case, Curry would need to average 21.0 points in his last two games to claim his second career scoring title.

Warriors coach Steve Kerr believes people should be talking about more than just Curry claiming scoring honors. Being selected the league's MVP for a third time should not be out of the question, the coach insisted.

"He's definitely the MVP in my book," Kerr said. "I think these last few weeks have to have vaulted him up in the order, but we'll see if he can climb to first or not. It would be great to see it happen."

Hounded by the Utah and Phoenix defenses in his last two games, Curry got a lot of help in Golden State's back-to-back wins over the top two teams in the West.

Jordan Poole came off the bench with 20 points and Kent Bazemore, starting in place of injured Kelly Oubre Jr., chipped in with 19 points in Monday's 119-116 victory over the Jazz.

Andrew Wiggins then exploded for a game-high 38 points in Tuesday's 122-116 triumph over the Suns.

While the Warriors were celebrating a second straight impressive win Tuesday, the Pelicans were officially eliminated from the playoff race in a 125-107 loss at Dallas.

New Orleans won at home over Golden State 108-103 on May 4, but lost Zion Williamson to a fractured finger in the process.

Without their star, the Pelicans have lost three of four in a rugged road stretch in which they have won at Charlotte, but lost at Philadelphia, Memphis and Dallas.

Rookie Didi Louzada made his NBA debut against the Mavericks, drawing praise from coach Stan Van Gundy despite scoring just two points in 15 minutes.

"I really liked what he did defensively. He looked really good defensively," the veteran coach observed. "I thought it was a real positive for his first NBA game."

--Field Level Media

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