Series Preview: Golden State Warriors vs. New Orleans Pelicans
*Photo via AP
The first seeded Golden State Warriors will face the eighth seeded New Orleans Pelicans in the quarterfinals of the Western Conference playoffs. The Warriors have dominated the NBA the entire season. Meanwhile the Pelicans snuck into the playoffs on the final night of the regular season.
The Golden State Warriors could not have had a better regular season. In a very competitive Western Conference, the best offense in all of basketball, they won 11 games more than the second seeded Houston Rockets. First year head coach, Steve Kerr has the bay area buzzing, and for good reason. Likely MVP, Stephen Curry and his fellow Splash Brother Klay Thompson had a historic season for Golden State. Curry averaged 23.8 points per game and over seven assists a game. He also broke his own record for most three point field goals made in a season with 286. Klay had his moments as well. He set the NBA record for most points in a quarter, with 37 against the Kings on January 23rd. The Warriors boasted a 39-2 record at home and won 67 games overall.
Some may think avoiding Russell Westbrook and the Oklahoma City Thunder in the first round was a blessing for the Warriors. Don’t tell that to Anthony Davis and the New Orleans Pelicans. By beating the Spurs on Wednesday night, the Pelicans clinched the eighth and final playoff spot in the West. The superstar known as the “Brow” will get his very first taste of playoff basketball. This season Anthony Davis is known for way more than just the hair in between his eyes. He has had an MVP caliber season and will do anything in his power to make this a long series.
So much of this series does depend on the play of Anthony Davis, but if the Pelicans want to have any chance of giving the Warriors a run for their money they are going to have to get excellent guard play. The Splash Brothers have been so lethal this season and play at such an amazing pace that it will be hard to see anyone completely shutting them down.
The Pelicans do have three guards, who average double figures in scoring. Tyreke Evans, Jrue Holiday, and Eric Gordon. They will all have the difficult tasks of running with Thompson and Curry. The Warriors play fast and want to speed you up. They take a ton of threes and like to get out in transition and convert on open opportunities. The Pelicans feature a heavy dose of Davis and will play more of a slow it down half court style. New Orleans would love to see these games in the 90’s. There will be some very good NBA action in this series, a lot of highly skilled players on both sides.
The Warriors biggest strength all year long has been their depth. They feature 5 players off the bench that could start on most teams in the NBA. This includes two former All-Stars in David Lee and Andre Iguodala. The team is so deep that Kerr has found it difficult to give Lee minutes, and has even referenced him as the odd man out. Even though the rotations do shorten in the playoffs, look for coach Kerr to continue to utilize his bench throughout this first round series. Having home court advantage throughout the playoffs, will be a great plus for a team that lost only two games at the Oracle all year.
Anthony Davis is the biggest physical problem in this series for the Warriors, but mentally, they could struggle with expectation and pressure. Being the one seed is no easy task. Every NBA fan remembers what the gritty and entertaining Warriors did in 2007, when the one seeded Dallas Mavericks came in with 67 wins. Stop me if you have heard 67 before. Deja vu? I am not expecting history to repeat itself, but the Pelicans have nothing to lose and the Warriors have everything to lose.
The x-factor for the Warriors will be Draymond Green. The stretch power forward is in contention for both defensive player of the year and most improved player of the year. He will have his hands full with the Pelicans frontcourt, and if he is up for the challenge, it bodes well for the Warriors ending this series rather quickly.
The Pelicans may have the most dominant player of the NBA season in Davis. He was great from start to finish. He truly has come into his own under Pelicans’ coach Monty Williams.The strength of this team is in their youth and size. They will play hard and be as hungry as possible. They attack the glass with reckless abandonment. This series almost feels like a 16-1 matchup in college basketball. The odds will be against them, but they will compete and keep it interesting.
The x-factor for the Pelicans in this series will be Jrue Holiday. The athletic playmaking guard is coming off an injury and has just re-entered the lineup. People tend to forget how good he was for the 76ers just a few years ago. If he is healthy, he can be a serious threat for the Warriors. Make sure to keep an eye out for his production.
Prediction: Can’t see the Warriors losing a game at home in the series. With that said Anthony Davis and company should do enough to steal a game on their home floor. This is just the appetizer for Golden State in the loaded West. However failing to come out and bring it every night could drag this series on longer than necessary. Look for the home court advantage and the Warriors’ depth, and experience to be too much for the young Pelicans. The dream season for Coach Kerr and Chef Curry continue, Warriors in 5.
(Warriors lead season series 3-1)
Thursday 12/4/14 Pelicans 85 @ Warriors 112
Sunday 12/14/14 Warriors 128 @ Pelicans 122 OT
Friday 3/20/15 Pelicans 96 @ Warriors 112
Tuesday 4/15/15 Warriors 100 @ Pelicans 103
Game 1- Saturday, April 18th New Orleans @ Golden State 3:30 PM ET ABC
Game 2- Monday, April 20th New Orleans @ Golden State 10:30 PM ET TNT
Game 3- Thursday, April 23rd Golden State @ New Orleans 9:30 PM ET TNT
Game 4- Saturday, April 25th Golden State @ New Orleans 8:00 PM ET ESPN