Iguodala's return sparks Warriors

The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

OAKLAND, Calif. -- Andre Iguodala was so impactful in his return to the Golden State Warriors' lineup Tuesday night, teammate David Lee nominated one of his missed dunks for nightly top-10 honors among NBA highlights.
Suffice it to say, the strained left hamstring that kept the standout swingman out of action almost a month is ancient history.
The Warriors celebrated Iguodala's return with one of their best efforts since he left the lineup Nov. 20, dominating the New Orleans Pelicans far greater than the 104-93 final score would indicate.
"It's great to be close to whole again," said Warriors coach Mark Jackson, whose club lost seven of 12 with Iguodala out of action. "We have been in a funk. It was good to get back to who we are. Tonight was a great step forward."
Jackson blasted his club's effort after a 106-102 loss to the Suns in Phoenix on Sunday night. The message clearly sunk in as the Warriors (14-12) scored 10 of Tuesday's first 14 points and never trailed en route to their sixth consecutive win over the Pelicans.
"This team was challenged by our coach, and we knew this was a game we needed to have," said Warriors power forward David Lee, who recorded a sixth consecutive double-double with 21 points and a season-best 17 rebounds. "We had a good one tonight. Now we hope it carries over."
Iguodala had only two points and two assists in 17 minutes, but his one and only hoop -- a resounding dunk off a Stephen Curry alley-oop pass late in the second quarter -- put an exclamation point on a one-sided first half during which Golden State built a 57-39 lead.
"It felt good. I got tired of watching," Iguodala said. "I didn't need to play 25, 30 minutes. We did the work we needed to do while I was out there on the court."
The play of the night was one on which Iguodala had to share the highlight clip with Pelicans center Jason Smith.
Demonstrating he had full mobility in his previously injured hamstring, Iguodala used a right-hand-to-right-hand, between-the-legs dribble to beat his defender en route to the hoop, only to have a flying dunk attempt rejected at the rim by Smith during the third quarter.
"Has a missed dunk ever been a top-10 play?" Lee asked. "That was a sign there that he's feeling better."
In improving to 8-3 at home this season, the Warriors got 28 points on 11-for-19 shooting from Curry to complement the performance of Lee, who made 10 of his 15 shots.
For Curry, it was his career-best 11th consecutive game with 20 or more points, the longest current streak in the NBA.
Curry scored 11 of his 28 points in the second quarter, including six in the final 5:50. The Warriors used an 18-8, half-ending run to open up what was an eight-point game.
"Just a bad game from the start," said Pelicans coach Monty Williams, whose team began a five-game trip with a loss to the Nuggets in Denver on Sunday night. "We just weren't hungry enough tonight for whatever reason."
Curry and shooting guard Klay Thompson, who had 16 points, easily won their backcourt duel with Jrue Holiday and Eric Gordon, outscoring the Pelicans duo 44-16 in the marquee matchup of the night. Holiday had 11 points on 4-for-9 shooting, while Gordon struggled through a 1-for-9 night and finished with five points.
The Pelicans, who travel to Los Angeles to take on the Clippers on Wednesday night, played without star power forward Anthony Davis (broken left hand) and high-scoring backup guard Tyreke Evans (sprained left ankle).
Power forward Ryan Anderson led New Orleans with 21 points. Smith (12) and small forward Al-Farouq Aminu (10) also scored in double figures for the Pelicans, who trailed by as many as 26 in the third period.
"We know we need to play differently," Anderson said. "Our defense just runs everything for this team. It gives us fast-break opportunities, and we didn't have a ton of those, and that is because we weren't getting a ton of defensive stops."
New Orleans, which entered the game ranked second in the NBA in fast-break points with 17.4 per game, had only three through three quarters and finished with nine.
Backup guard Austin Rivers added 11 for the Pelicans, who used a 10-0 run midway through the fourth quarter to get within 93-80 with 5:54 remaining, prompting Jackson to put four starters back in the game.
Lee immediately scored from the interior, and New Orleans (11-12) never got closer than 11 the rest of the way.
NOTES: Led by PF David Lee (17 reboudns) and C Andrew Bogut (10), the Warriors outrebounded the Pelicans 58-44. ... The Warriors grabbed 50 or more rebounds in a fifth consecutive game, their longest string since 1989. ... The loss was the Pelicans' sixth in seven road games against Western Conference teams. ... Pelicans coach Monty Williams disclosed before the game that star PF Anthony Davis, who broke his left hand Dec. 1, resumed on-court activities and "he's just got to get the OK to get back out on the (game) floor." The minimum recovery time for Davis was expected to be four weeks. ... Several sources are reporting New Orleans is close to signing former Charlotte Bobcats first-round pick Alexis Ajinca to a two-year deal. Ajinca, a 7-foot-2 center currently playing in the Euroleague, would need to buy out the remainder of his contract with Strasbourg in order to accept an offer from the Pelicans.

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