clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

New Orleans Pelicans at Golden State Warriors Game 2 Preview

After a tough game, but one that saw the Pelicans fight back in the second half, can the Pelicans use that momentum to take Game 2?

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

In Game 2 of the first round NBA playoffs series between the New Orleans Pelicans and Golden State Warriors, the Pelicans will look to try to be the plucky eighth seed and steal a game before coming back to the Smoothie King Center. In Game 1, the Warriors relied on an early first half lead to coast in the second half, before the Pelicans made a nice little comeback, making the final score 106-99 Warriors.

On Saturday, it was a tale of two halves for the Pelicans. New Orleans got off to a 4-0 lead, before that monstrous Golden State offense jumped started and pushed the lead to 15 points by the end of the first quarter and an 18 point edge at the end of the first half. Nothing went right. The Pelicans shot just 41 percent from floor and lost Tyreke Evans in the process. Anthony Davis was in the midst of first time jitters, and Golden State’s defense didn’t make it easier on him, constantly picking and slapping the ball out of Davis’ grasp as he went off for an offensive attack.

In short, it was a rough half but not one unexpected. The Warriors, with practically the best offense and defense in the league, came out in their first playoff game at the Oracle and jumped off to a blazing start. That sounds about right to me.

After halftime, the Pelicans played a little bit better on both sides of the ball. New Orleans held Golden State to just 34 percent shooting and Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, aka the Splash Brothers, to just just 4/11 from beyond the arc. The Warriors scored 47 points in the second half, but the Warriors worked for that 47. Both Curry and Thompson were not given easy looks from beyond the perimeter.

Meanwhile, New Orleans offense had a slight uptick in performance, from 41 percent to 43 percent. Davis evolved from the slightly hesitant man child into a destroyer of worlds, carrying New Orleans’ offense in the second half with 24 points. Quincy Pondexter joined him in the fray, scoring 12 points, grabbing eight rebounds and dishing out six assists. Unfortunately, Eric Gordon couldn’t find his groove, Ryan Anderson and Norris Cole combined to go 0/8 and the Pelicans comeback efforts fell short.

So how can New Orleans come away in game two with a victory? Let’s talk about it.

First and foremost, the team has to hope that Tyreke Evans will be available. He went down with a left knee contusion and said that he "felt a small pop," but fortunately his MRI came back negative. He’s currently questionable for Game 2, so I’m hoping that Evans, even with a smaller role, will be able to help the Pelicans. With Jrue Holiday still limited, the Pelicans need another ball handler, and for most of that season, Evans has been that guy. Here’s to having Evans back in uniform Monday.

Limit points in the paint

In the first half, the Warriors found much success getting points in the paints in a variety of ways: broken defensive plays that led to say someone like Harrison Barnes or Draymond Green open for an easy look or good pick and roll plays that led to a Stephen Curry layup. The Warriors finished the first half shooting 18/24 at the rim and 19/28 from within 10 feet. The Pelicans can’t have two sharpshooters on the outside to monitor about AND worry about the rim.

The Pelicans defense needs to fix that starting with better work on the pick and roll. There were a handful of plays where Asik successfully defended the Curry/Bogut pick and roll and no one helped defensively. Better defensive awareness prevents that.

As for the easy flushes by Green and Barnes, that’s just knowing where your man is. As much as Curry needs attention, you can’t forget that he’s a very flashy passer, capable of capitalizing on your mistake and finding the open man. The Pelicans have to remain aware of GSW's shooting prowess from the outside, but they can't be burned by backdoor cuts because they were leaning too hard to the outside.

Keep a man on him

In Game 1, the Warriors were 21/49 (42%) when a Pelican defender contested the shot. That number went up to 50 percent from the floor when the Warriors were unguarded (or more than 4 feet away). Barnes and Green combined to go 5/10 on uncontested shots, Curry went 6/10 and Andrew Bogut completed both of his attempts.

Much of Golden State’s success had to do with being wide open for their shot attempts. Again, that’s merely standing in front of players on defense. For New Orleans to combat that, it’s more pressure before the shot, stifling (icing) the pick and roll and forcing some of those crazy Curry threes. Of course, some will fall, but you take those, rather than the open threes.

One example was the wide open three Andre Iguodala hit in the third quarter at the 6:01 mark. A normally poor three-point shooter, Iggy had enough time to set up and launch an easy one. Those extra three, four seconds to eye the rim and accurately launch one is exactly what New Orleans can't afford.

Small ball

I like Omer Asik. I like his defensive work and I think some of the offensive things they ran with him was interesting (I really like a small little play that got Asik the ball at the elbow and with one pass, Cole had a nice attempt from about 12 feet. I’ll try to look for it for a fanshot.), but I like the idea of the Pelicans going small in this one.

The combination of Cunningham, Anderson and Davis in the frontcourt is something that intrigues me. Those three can play well in different ways. Cunningham is someone that doesn’t need the ball much and can offer a mid-range jumper, as well as someone who can get to the rim and finish. Anderson, when on, is one of the best three point shooters and can throw in some offensive rebounding. Anthony Davis is, well, you know, the destroyer of worlds. He can do anything.

Those three with Holiday and Pondexter in the backcourt intrigues me. If Bogut is out there, rolling with Asik is fine, but when the Aussie hits the bench, I would like to see Monty combat it with the lineup I just mentioned. However, going with any other small lineup would probably work too, say Holiday, Pondexter, Evans, Cunningham and Davis.

Better luck the second time around?

The first half was a tough sit, but the second half was a good view at the possibilities. I look forward to watching a Pelicans team ready to play and possibly be in position to steal a game. Monty Williams and his staff saw some of the things that worked and what didn’t. For instance, I would like to see them not be afraid to go small quicker and use Asik more sparingly.

I’m not predicting a victory, but I think we will see Davis have another great game, a bounce back game from Ryan Anderson or Jrue Holiday and hopefully, Evans, Pondexter and Gordon will all provide solid contributions.

Don’t forget to check out the SB Nation’s Golden State Warriors site for a Golden State flavored preview: Golden State Of Mind.

Geaux Pelicans!

What: Pelicans at Warriors

Where: Oracle Arena

When: April 20th, 9:30 PM

How: Fox Sports New Orleans, TNT