I know what you are thinking. No. It's not okay to tell Toney Douglas to go out there and take out one of Stephen Curry's ankles. That's not only wrong (ask Roger Goodell), but it may also not even guarantee a win for the Pelicans. The Warriors are that good.
New Orleans, however, can beat Golden State. In order to accomplish this seemingly impossible task, the Pelicans need only follow the advice of the great musician and poet Christopher Brian Bridges. You may know him by his stage name, Ludacris.
"When I Move, You Move -- Just Like That"
The Warriors are excellent at whipping the ball around while manufacturing player movement. There are two traditional ways to counter an offense with such complex movement: One, you can play man to man and switch on all handoffs. Two, you can play a hybrid 3-2 zone, also known as a "Box and One" defense.
For the first option, the Pelicans don't have the best personnel to play straight man to man and switch on the dribble handoffs. Players in the Pelicans starting lineup like Asik, Gordon, and even Anthony Davis to an extent, are fairly one dimensional in who they can guard. For instance, a common play the Warriors will run is a pick by Bogut, where Curry goes over the top, Green cuts to the basket, and Thompson or Iguodala goes into the corner. If the Pelicans just switched, they would end up with a mismatch in Asik guarding Curry and Green being guarded by Tyreke.
Here is an example:
Their lack of ability to switch on the pick and roll, leaves the Pelicans, more often than not, trying to fight over screens. When you are set to play two of the fastest shooters in the Wild West, fighting over screens is not an ideal scenario.
The second option, playing a hybrid 3-2 zone could provide a little more leeway for the Pelicans in my opinion. I didn't see the Pelicans try this style out until the Spurs game the other night, but I thought it looked fairly effective. In this scheme you take one player, say for instance Quincy Pondexter or Jrue Holiday, and that player is delegated with guarding the opposing teams best player all the time, or as my dad use to say, "Like white on rice." That player's main goal is to shield the ball from the opposing team's best player. The other four players make a "Box" around the perimeter and play the traditional "zone" style defense with the addition of a weak side help assignment.
So for instance, in the traditional Bogut pick and roll with Curry, instead of switching, QPon would be charged with fighting over the screen, and only the nearest player would be charged with picking up Bogut. Hence, if Bogut is in the high post, then Tyreke would guard him, but if Bogut moved back into the low post, Asik would pick him up.
Here is an example of the Spurs running something similar against the Warriors. Notice how Duncan doesn't even come out to guard the pick and roll. Instead, Duncan floats in a more help position during the primary defender, Kawhi, is charged with getting over the pick. It didn't work that time, but it helped keep the Warriors from becoming ballistic missile hot during the game as a whole.
"Move B!$h, Get Out the Way!"
The Pelicans' strategy on offense should be far simpler, drive the ball into the paint. It sounds a bit counterintuitive, but if I were in Monty I would discourage the Pelicans from taking any jump shots in the 1st quarter of any game. The Pelicans may not score as many points, but the Pelicans probably aren't talented enough to simply try and outscore the Warriors. Drawing fouls on the Warriors best players is a simple way to even the odds.
The Warriors defense is centered by defensive based god Andrew Bogut. When I say Andrew Bogut is the Lebron James of defense, I don't mean that metaphorically, I mean it analogously. Andrew Bogut has the highest defensive real plus-minus of any player in the league. Bogut's RPM of 6.02 sits just an tad bit higher than LeBron's offensive real plus-minus number, 5.74. So in effect, Andrew Bogut has the same effect on defense that LeBron James has on offense.
As the Pelicans saw in their April 6th matchup with the Warriors, taking Bogut out of the game, makes their offense look way better. For Bogut to commit those fouls, the Pelicans must continually drive the ball into the paint. One thing that worked effectively in getting Bogut to commit fouls in their previous matchup was hitting Asik rolling to the basket.
Hands UP!!! Hands UP!!!
Curry is a master of the baseline probe and has one of the quickest releases on his shot I have ever seen. Still, though, Steph is a good passer, he is not an extraordinary passer. Rather, he draws so much attention on his probes that his presence in the paint naturally creates easy passing lanes. Easy passing lanes, often lead to an easy shot from the three point line or a cutting big.
If the Pelicans want to compete in this series, they will have to do an effective job of closing down these passing lanes, forcing Curry to take the shot in the interior with a hand in his face or reset the play. As we have seen all season, the Pelicans have struggled to guard the paint against smaller and quicker guards. The Pelicans guards aren't able to keep the NBA's quicker guards out of the it, and their bigs, outside of Asik, don't step up to provide the necessary help on the penetrating guard.
The Pelicans won't be able to keep Steph Curry out of the paint. He is too good at running off of Andrew Bogut's (moving) screens. One simple thing the Pelicans can do to help mitigate the damage from Steph's penetration is keep their hands up constantly. That principle should apply especially to the person guarding Curry because Curry can take a shot in pretty much the blink of an eye. As the adage goes, hand down, man down.
"When You Get On the Floor - Throw Them Bows."
While the Pelicans shouldn't intentionally hurt anyone, they can't afford to play soft either. Anthony Davis has to be in charge of the Pelicans physicality. The Warriors heartbeat lies within Draymond Green. Davis is physically superior to Green in almost every conceivable way. He has to take it to Green. Dominate Green, and there's a chance AD can get in the head of the Warriors mental leader.
The Pelicans also have to send a clear message to Curry, that if he drives into the paint, there won't be any "free" points. In case you haven't noticed, Curry is not the largest guy in the world. We all saw last year in the Wizards v. Pacers series that smaller guards can be intimidated out of the paint. Like with John Wall last year, that intimidation can have a large effect on a seven-game series.
The last step to victory is simple, protect the blender. I'll let my boy Anthony Davis explain:
Now, lets go get this scrimmage.