Warriors in unfamiliar place as they face Pelicans

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The New Orleans Pelicans have been trying to catch the Golden State Warriors for years.

It’s happening so far this season, but not in the way anyone would have predicted.

The Pelicans haven’t ascended to the level of the five-time Western Conference champion Warriors.

Instead, the Warriors have fallen to the bottom of the West in the wake of Kevin Durant’s defection to Brooklyn in free agency and injuries to Klay Thompson and Steph Curry.

Golden State has won an NBA-low two games, one fewer than New Orleans has after a 109-94 loss at Miami on Saturday night.

“We’re trying to get better, and that starts with just competing,” Warriors center Willie Cauley-Stein said. “We’re taking little steps.”

One of those baby steps came in a competitive battle with visiting Boston, which has the NBA’s best record. But Golden State came up short, 105-100, Friday night for its sixth straight loss.

“We played our best defensive game of the year,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “That’s what really matters.”

But starting guard D’Angelo Russell suffered a sprained right thumb that’s expected to sideline him for two weeks.

Golden State is off to its worst start since beginning 2-16 in 1999-00. The six-game losing streak matches its longest since dropping six in a row from Feb. 5-19, 2013.

“Nobody is preordained to get to play in the Finals every year,” Kerr said. “It just doesn’t work that way. We sort of look at it the opposite way in that how lucky we’ve been to be part of this group. … and have a lot of success. Maybe we were due for a year like this.”

The Warriors are beginning a four-game road trip in New Orleans, where they got one of their wins this season — 134-123 on Oct. 28.

The Pelicans played without five of their top seven scorers in the loss to the Heat, including leading scorer Brandon Ingram and third-leading scorer JJ Redick.

Rookie Nickeil Alexander-Walker led the Pelicans, who have just three wins this season but defeated the Clippers 132-127 in their last home game Thursday night, with a season-high 27 points. E’Twaun Moore added 18 points, Jrue Holiday had 14 points, rookie Jaxson Hayes had 12 and Nicolo Melli 10.

The Pelicans stayed in the game until midway through the fourth quarter primarily by making 3-pointers, finishing with 16. But the Heat enjoyed a 46-31 rebounding advantage and were called for just six fouls.

“I thought the guys played extremely hard,” Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry said. “We just ran out of gas, to be honest with you. We just did not have enough people tonight.”

It’s unclear how many players the Pelicans will have available against the Warriors.

Ingram and Redick were joined Saturday on the sideline by starting point guard Lonzo Ball (groin), guard Josh Hart (knee/ankle) and backup center Jahlil Okafor (ankle). Rookie overall No. 1 draft choice Zion Williamson (knee) has yet to play and isn’t expected to return until sometime next month.

–Field Level Media

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