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Game 2 Preview: Warriors vs. Pelicans

Basketball Insiders previews Game 2 of the Warriors vs. Pelicans series.

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#1 – Golden State Warriors

The Warriors won Game 1 on the strength of a dominating defensive first quarter, in which they held the Pelicans to 5-21 shooting and New Orleans simply could not get an open look.  They then pushed the lead to 25 before New Orleans used a 14-0 run to get back into it, but were never seriously threatened.  Stephen Curry performed his usual magic, with 34 points on 28 shooting possessions.  Draymond Green was the key defensively throughout the first three quarters, guarding Anthony Davis and also playing center in small lineups.

Klay Thompson struggled slightly, going only 6-17 and appearing flummoxed by Davis at the rim a few times.  Thompson finished -6 on the day, as he proved unable to keep bench units without Curry or Green afloat, even against the Pelicans’ less than heralded bench. He will need to play better if the Warriors are to fulfill their championship goals, although his defense on the Pels’ perimeter players was excellent.

Steve Kerr coached an excellent game.  One solid adjustment was to just treat Ryan Anderson like a wing instead of a big and match up with him accordingly.  Kerr rolled with Green at center in that matchup, with Harrison Barnes or Andre Iguodala guarding Anderson.   He also extended his starters in the second half, with Curry and Green returning quickly in the fourth to quell a Pelicans run.  With the TV timeouts, he still managed to get them at least 10 minutes of actual time rest.

#8 – New Orleans Pelicans

The Pelicans will wait with bated breath for news on Tyreke Evans’ status, who missed most of the game with a knee contusion and will have an MRI Saturday night.  Evans told ESPN’s Marc Stein that he “felt a little pop, felt a little snap” and “never felt nothing like that before,” which does not bode particularly well.  With Jrue Holiday’s minutes still limited as he returns from a right lower leg stress injury, New Orleans’s pick-and-roll game will be sorely limited. Norris Cole defended Steph Curry reasonably well, but was only 3-10 and is not a starter-level offensive player.

Aside from that though, they have reason to be encouraged by this performance.  They managed only 13 points in the first quarter, but scored well after that.  Anthony Davis had a miserable first three quarters.  A lot of that was good Warriors defense, but perhaps more important was the fact that he wasn’t able to convert on easy chances. He missed a lot of open jumpers, failed to finish at the rim, and fumbled passes in the first three quarters before breaking out in the fourth.

New Orleans also had some success defensively.  They managed to stymie the Warriors quite a bit by switching their big out on Curry in particular.  Davis and Dante Cunningham both had notable success with that tactic, and it is one the Warriors may struggle to abuse due to their lack of postup bigs unless Curry does better one-on-one.  When the Pelicans were able to score and set their defense, they had success stopping Golden State.

Unfortunately, part of the reason New Orleans had success with that strategy is because Ryan Anderson and Omer Asik were both so bad that Monty Williams had to go in another direction and play Cunningham at the four for long stretches.  Anderson has unfortunately reached traffic cone status defensively, and his attempts to make the Warriors pay for going small on him ended in two missed fadeaway jumpers.  Asik had two points, as Andrew Bogut helped off him liberally to contain other threats.  Defensively, Asik was not able to defend the rim adequately, and he was run off the floor when Kerr went with Green at center.  All told, he finished -18 in 21 minutes.  The Pelicans are not going to be competitive in this series if they can’t get more out of those bigs.

Who Wins Game 2?

The Warriors are now 40-2 at home on the year. Take a wild guess.

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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