It has been said repeatedly but it's worth mentioning once more that the schedule makers are most certainly not New Orleans Pelicans fans. Regardless of all the injuries, having the same NBA team face the Golden State Warriors twice in the first three games on the calendar is most certainly asking for a losing record.
Last night, the reigning champs improved to 2-0 after destroying the Houston Rockets. Despite no Andrew Bogut (concussion), the Warriors had little trouble of dismissing James Harden and the rest of his teammates. They outscored the Rockets in every quarter and Stephen Curry could not be stopped, pouring in 25 points in a mere 27 minutes.
Is there any chance the Pelicans can slow down the MVP and the rest of the Warriors the second time around? Doubtful, but the odds are more favorable than this past Tuesday night.
First, Jrue Holiday will play. Don't be surprised to see Jrue Holiday spend all of 20 minute allotment covering Curry. He is undoubtedly the best perimeter defender for New Orleans so Alvin Gentry would be wise to make Holiday's minutes coincide with Curry's.
Second, Omer Asik could return to the active list. Although both he and Luke Babbitt are questionable for tonight's game, they will go through pregame work, see how they feel, and if successful, be in the home-opening lineup. If Asik doesn't experience any discomfort, he would start ahead of Kendrick Perkins and should help cover for a few breakdowns in the paint.
In the Pelicans loss at the Oracle, Ish Smith led the team with shots defended at the rim (10). That's right, the diminutive point guard found himself guarding an assignment in the paint the same number of times as Anthony Davis (6) and Ryan Anderson (4) combined. This points to the number of breakdowns and/or how successful the Warriors are at pulling the opposition's bigs away from the rim. Look for Darren Erman to have possibly Asik and the other bigs stay closer to home. Festus Ezeli, like Bogut, are not perimeter threats and Marreese Speights is not Curry.
Third, this game will be played in the Smoothie King Center. Last season, the Pelicans beat the Warriors in April, but they came oh-so-close to making it a series sweep at home back in December. In that game, New Orleans took GSW to overtime without the services of Anthony Davis. Tyreke Evans and Jrue Holiday had actually bested the production of the Splash Brothers, Curry and Klay Thompson.
Yesterday, we learned tonight's game will be a sell-out, even Davis can't find a spare ticket.
Clearly Pels-Warriors is a hot ticket. Anthony Davis: "I’m asking them for extra tickets and it ain’t happening."— Brett Dawson (@BDawsonWrites) October 31, 2015
A full SKC arena could mean a louder home-field advantage. Don't expect the noise to rattle the experienced Warriors, but it could help the Pelicans get off to a stronger start. For whatever reason, New Orleans has been unable to match the energy of their opponents in the first two games and has given up an astonishing 82 points in 24 first quarter minutes.
As a bonus, Toney Douglas will be in uniform and could spend some time guarding Curry. He is known for being a quality defender, much stronger than the recently departed Nate Robinson. Douglas' size and mindset should also fare better than Smith. TD takes an approach of ensuring his assignment is never comfortable, a facet the New Orleans defense could most certainly use more of against all-world Curry.
The Pelicans will be more ready than they were a week ago against the Warriors. The offense will not exclusively run through Anthony Davis for an inordinate amount of time. The defense and Darren Erman have had two days to make adjustments and is likely to have the services of more defensively-minded personnel. It may also help that the Warriors are on the second night of a road back-to-back.
The odds makers have currently listed the Pelicans as 4.5 underdogs, but if AD dons his cape at tip-off, all bets are off. An MVP-like performance could very much propel New Orleans to pull off an impressive trick and would give the fans a necessary treat, a win.