NEW ORLEANS – Klay Thompson punctuated his regular season with a fist pump — a display of emotion stemming from far more than his latest flurry of fourth-quarter points.
Thompson made seven 3-pointers and scored a season-high 41 points for the Golden State Warriors, who landed the third seed in the Western Conference playoffs with a 128-107 victory over the New Orleans Pelicans on Sunday night.
“What I battled through, I'll never take a 40-ball lightly again,” said Thompson, who after being sidelined for more than two seasons with knee and Achilles injuries, now heads into the playoffs having scored 30-plus in three straight games.
“That's hard to do in the NBA," Thompson continued. "I don't care who's guarding you, who's playing, 40 points is 40 points and that was a sweet night for myself.”
Jordan Poole added 22 for the Warriors, who opened up a 22-point lead in the second quarter and held on to close out the regular season on a five-game winning streak.
The Pelicans were already locked into the ninth spot in the Western Conference and limited the playing time for the usual starters ahead of their single-elimination play-in game on Wednesday against the San Antonio Spurs. Brandon Ingram (right hamstring), Herbert Jones (bruised right tibia) and Jonas Valanciunas (sore right ankle) sat out, as well as top scoring reserve Devonte' Graham.
Starting guard CJ McCollum played just five minutes in the first quarter before being given the rest of the night off. Naji Marshall led New Orleans with 19 points, while reserve Gary Clark added 17 points and rookie Trey Murphy III scored 15.
Pelicans coach Willie Green downplayed the Pelicans' two losses to end the season, given that his team still has a chance to be part of the NBA playoffs after starting 3-16 and not having injured 2019 top overall draft pick Zion Williamson all season.
“We are proud of our group and where we are right now,” Green said. “The guys understand that they have worked extremely hard. They stayed together and we have a great opportunity.”
The Pelicans' largely reserve lineup still whittled a 29-point deficit down to 11 late in the third quarter before Thompson put the game away with 15 points in a five-minute span early in the fourth period.
Thompson opened the spurt with an 11-foot turnaround, a reverse layup and then a driving floater as he was fouled, followed by a 15-foot pull-up and consecutive 3s to make it 108-86.
“He’s come back from this long two-and-a-half-year absence, so for him to look the way he has the last couple weeks but also kind of break this game open tonight in the last game of the regular season is significant,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “Tonight was sort of a metaphor for Klay being back to Klay.”
Warriors: Thompson shot 50% from 3-point range against New Orleans. He has 14 games with at least 20 points and six with at least 30 since returning to the lineup on Jan. 9. ... Golden State shot 60.5% overall (49 of 81) and 57.6% (19 of 33) from 3-point range. ... Jonathan Kuminga scored 18 points and Damion Lee added 11.
Pelicans: Ingram missed his third straight game with the hamstring injury, which Green has described as a minor aggravation that shouldn't keep him out of the play-in game. “He’s feeling much better," Green said. "Our plan is for him to be ready to play Wednesday. But other than that, he’s working through it. He is getting better. But it just didn’t make sense to put him on the floor tonight.” ... Undrafted rookie Jose Alvarado scored 12 points in a reserve role.
It's still not clear whether Warriors leading scorer Stephen Curry will be back for Golden State's playoff opener. He missed the final 12 games of the regular season because of a sprained ligament in his left foot.
“We’ll see how everything goes with Steph next week. There’s a chance he’ll be ready for Game 1. There’s a chance he might not,” Kerr said. “As the week goes on, we’ll see where Steph is. But I imagine this will go right down to the wire as far as Game 1 is concerned, whether we know his availability or not.”
Poole closed out the season as the NBA leader in free-throw percentage at 92.5%, just ahead of Curry at 92.3%.
“I want to give a shoutout to my mom. Ever since I was young, she told me there was nobody guarding me at the free-throw line, so I shouldn’t be missing too many of them,” Poole said. “It’s pretty cool.”
Warriors center Kevon Looney played in all 82 regular-season games, an accomplishment that Kerr praised in the context of Looney's hip and neuropathy problems earlier in his career.
“It’s always an incredible badge of honor for a player to play 82 games and as a coach to be able to rely on somebody 82 times, it’s amazing,” Kerr said. "I’m thrilled for him.”
Warriors: Open the first round of the playoffs at home against Denver on Saturday night.
Pelicans: Host a Western Conference play-in game against San Antonio on Wednesday night.
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