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Game 1 Preview: Warriors vs. Pelicans

Basketball Insiders previews Game 1 between the Warriors and Pelicans.

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Updated 11 months ago on
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# 1 – Golden State Warriors

The Warriors have just completed one of the best regular seasons in NBA history, as one of only 10 teams to finish 67-15 or better and one of only eight to win their games by an average of 10 points or more. Per NBA.com, the Warriors were second in offense (109.4 points per 100 possessions, 1.3 points above third place Toronto) and first in defense (98 points/100, 1.3 points ahead of second place Milwaukee).

Their net rating of 11.4 was 4.5 points/100 higher than the second place L.A. Clippers. They also tied for the second-best home record ever at 39-2, and of course have home court throughout the playoffs.  Make no mistake, this was an all-time great team by any possible regular season metric.

Both teams have excellent perimeter rotations, especially if shortened for the playoffs.  Stephen Curry should win MVP, while Klay Thompson can explode at any time.  Jrue Holiday has played Curry well at times with his length, but he is returning from injury and may not be ready for major minutes chasing him around all game.  If Holiday can’t guard Curry, that could mean big minutes for Norris Cole, which would hurt New Orleans’ spacing against the league’s number one defense.  Meanwhile, Golden State has plenty of long wings (Thompson, Andre Iguodala, Shaun Livingston, Harrison Barnes) to throw at Eric Gordon and Tyreke Evans.  Evans in particular will find it tough sledding at the rim against Andrew Bogut, especially when Omer Asik is in the game. It’s worth noting that we should not expect to see David Lee much in this series, as both Ryan Anderson and Anthony Davis are very difficult matchups for him defensively.

Playing an all-time great team in raucous Oracle Arena will be very tough for the New Orleans Pelicans.

# 8 – New Orleans Pelicans

Into the Oracle Arena crucible step the 45-37 Pelicans, playoff-bound by virtue of a home win over the San Antonio Spurs on the last night of the regular season.  Notable for the Pelicans is the fact that they finally have every important player on the roster healthy and playing reasonably well – really for the first time since Jrue Holiday came to New Orleans for the 2013-14 season.

Unfortunately for the Pelicans, they do not match up particularly well with Golden State.  The Warriors’ shooting makes the shot-blocking of Omer Asik and Anthony Davis less effective, forcing them away from the basket to deal with Golden State’s myriad pick and rolls and dribble handoffs involving Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson.  And Golden State will have little trouble matching up with Ryan Anderson off New Orleans’ bench.  Draymond Green is a perfect foil for Anderson, able to switch pick and rolls involving him, stop him in the post, and help and recover to the three-point line.  Off the bench, the Warriors can utilize Barnes as a backup four to guard Anderson in similar fashion.  We may also see the Warriors utilize Green at the five to counter an Anthony Davis/Anderson frontcourt, rather than have Andrew Bogut chase after Davis’ midrange jumper.  When the Pelicans play Omer Asik, look for Andrew Bogut to roam off him defensively and make life extremely difficult for drivers.

New Orleans’ big trump card is Davis.  Golden State can somewhat mitigate his pick and pop game by switching, but he would seem to have an advantage on Green in the post.  However, Green’s strength and doggedness makes him far more difficult to post up than many realize.  If New Orleans is to make this series remotely competitive, Davis will have to dominate Green.

Who Wins Game 1?

Even if Davis dominates, the Warriors likely have too much on offense for the 22nd-ranked Pelicans defense.  They have talent on that end, but have struggled to find the necessary cohesiveness.  Unless Golden State gets tight as the favorite and starts missing shots, they should cruise.

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Nate Duncan is an NBA analyst, salary cap expert and attorney. He has also written for Sports Illustrated & ESPN, and a host on #NBACast

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