In what could be a first round matchup, the New Orleans Pelicans travel to Golden State to face the Warriors. After a loss to the Phoenix Suns the previous night, the Pelicans sit one game behind the Oklahoma City Thunder for the eighth and final spot in the playoffs. However, with Kevin Durant's status being up and in the air and the new injuries to Serge Ibaka and Enes Kanter, I imagine the Pelicans are more likely to grab that final seed in the West, especially with Ryan Anderson being on the verge of returning to the court.
I'm assuming Anthony Davis returns for this one, as well. He missed the game in Phoenix with a left ankle injury and with the Pelicans in the midst of a playoff race, if he can go, he'll go. Asides Anderson's impending return, Omer Asik's injury - calf - in the midst of last night wasn't good. The Pelicans can dabble with Alexis Ajinca and Jeff Withey for stretches, but not for an entire game. If Davis isn't playing on top of that, things could get ugly for New Orleans' frontcourt.
Check out Golden State of Mind and their preview against the Pelicans here: Golden State Of Mind.
Stats of Note
Simply put, the Golden State Warriors are the best team in the league. Steve Kerr has helped this team take the step forward from a good team to a great team. The emergence of Draymond Green into the ideal power forward, reinserting Harrison Barnes into a comfortable spot into the rotation and the additional confidence Klay Thompson has gained culminating into an All-Star berth have all been vital to GSW's success. The Warriors have put all the pieces together and Stephen Curry, as of now, is probably the MVP.
Offensively, the Warriors have the best offense at 109.2 per 100 possessions. Curry and Thompson bombard opponents from beyond the arc, Green is the perfect inside/outside balance and the rest of the rotation (Barnes, Marreese Speights and Andre Iguodala) do a great job picking up the rest. After Thompson and Curry, it's a pretty strong team balance on the offensive end.
Defensively, Golden State is the best team in the league, registering at 96.7 points per 100 possessions. Curry has improved as a defensive player, Thompson is a dynamic two-way player and Green can ideally defend every position on the floor. This is where other players - namely, Andrew Bogut and Shaun Livingston - rise up. Bogut gives them the ideal rim defender, who can also defend and step away from the rim. Livingston does his work on the perimeter, giving the Warriors two formidable defenders when he's on with Klay and makes it a nightmare in the passing lanes for opponents.
I can gush over the Warriors all day. They're a team to look up to when building a roster. Sure, you're not going to just draft two all-stars out of the top five every day, but the Warriors created a good roster with great offensive players and combined them with high-level defensive players in free agency.
They also did something really smart - didn't stick themselves with Mark Jackson. Jackson had two good seasons with the Warriors, but looking back today, he also underachieved. Turning towards Kerr has turned out to be a huge upgrade and thus, the Warriors are in position to claim the number one seed in the Western Conference.
Keys to Victory
Rebounding -- The Warriors aren't the best team in the league in defensive rebound percentage, 20th in the league, because they shoot a ton of threes. Whoever is out there for the Pelicans in the front court will have to be active on the glass, maintaining possessions for the Pelicans and allowing them another chance to score on the offensive end.
Slow it down -- The Warriors play at the fastest pace in the league; the Pelicans play at the fourth slowest in the NBA. While I don't want the Pelicans to play at a snail's pace, slowing it down on the offensive end, becoming methodic and trying to get the best shot, rather than the first shot, might work in New Orleans' favor.
Team Effort -- Everyone has to play well. Tyreke Evans, Norris Cole, Quincy Pondexter, everyone. In order to beat a team as good as the Warriors, the Pelicans will need to bring their A game on the court and head coach Monty Williams will need to coach a good game as well. He's been a fine coach as of late, especially with his plays out of timeouts, so I expect him to do much of the same against the Warriors.
With the amount of injuries piling up for New Orleans and a trip to Oracle Arena, it's an incredibly tough matchup for the Pelicans. Still, if they can hit their open shots, defend and listen to the three keys, they could make it a close game like they did in their last matchup. Geaux Pels!
Who: Pelicans at Warriors
Where: Oracle Arena
When: March 20th, 2015
How to Watch: League Pass and Fox Sports South West.