Game 2 is scheduled to commence this evening, but in my eyes it should be seen as a Game 7. Should the Pelicans stand to steal a game from the Warriors in Oakland, it’d have to be tonight following the momentum set in motion in the fourth quarter of Game 1. Here are my three keys to the game:
- Key Number 1: Size Does Matter
In this case, smaller is better. As well written by Oleh in NBA Playoffs: To beat the Warriors, the Pelicans have to help Anthony Davis by going small, the duo of Andrew Bogut and Draymond Green have an insane defensive efficiency rating when on the court together, maniacally deterring fast-break points and points in the paint, on par with the best in the league. So, stretch the offense well beyond the interior and slow the game down. 15 foot jumpers from Eric Gordon, Quincy Pondexter, and Jrue Holiday should be our best friends--systematically take the big guys out of their preferred game. I’d be more inclined to believe that the New Orleans Department of Public Works’ plan to fill Uptown potholes with aggregate is destined for success, than toss a crispy new Benny Frank at anyone other than Anthony Davis finding success against the Bogut-Green blockade. Hell, even our burly Omer Asik is like, "Nah, I’m good. Gotta protect this pretty face for Hollywood South once my career comes to a close"—Turkish Gold.
- Key Number 2: Frontcourt Defense
Anthony Davis Defends Andrew Bogut
Though I was attending a couples shower for the entire game, whenever I was able to sneak a look at a few minutes of the first contest, someone was running an undefended finger-roll layup. Contrary to what was expected, the Warriors only outshot the Pelicans in the long ball 11-9 (but man, did those 6 points go a long way). AD has no real need to change what he’s doing, it'd be best to movie some of the larger guys a half-step back on help defense. Dante Cunningham has an opportunity to contribute substantial minutes if given the chance due to his stretched frame as well. Dare I say it’d be an absolute luxury to have Jeff Withey in the trenches, to complement Mr. Icy Hot Alexis Ajinca? What this really comes down to is vision and subsequently reaction time. When I played as a kid, we were taught that if you can’t see both your man and the ball, you might as well be gifting the opposing team a basket. They literally made us point with one hand at the player we were defending, and the other at ball, at all times. Maybe NBA players have eclipsed that learning tool necessity, but the silly non-contested baskets cost us multiple points. Signals up, gentlemen.
- Key Number 3: Stay Healthy
Tyreke Evans Leaves Game 1 Early
Had Tyreke "Straight Gas" Evans been healthy for most of the first matchup, he could have undoubtedly helped with the final deficit by attributing points, and his infectious "Coeur de l’Oiseau". Since Tyreke is listed as "Questionable" with a bone bruise in his knee as of Monday morning, we don’t know what kind of impact he could have on the series. Ryan Anderson had a quiet game, though logging 20+ minutes, and I’d like to think that every day he moves away from his injury & surgery is another day in the bank of recovery, so I fully expect him to find his shot in tonight’s matchup. Similarly, Jrue Holiday may need to step in at the starting point or of guard in Evans’ absence, and his recovery is just as crucial (if not more so) than Ryno’s at this point in the season. In an effort to avoid jinx-status, I’ll just throw a blanket statement out and say that every single player in the 2014-15 Playoffs will need to remain healthy for the New Orleans Pelicans to have success.
If the Birds can pull off the W tonight, and I fully expect that they will, they’ll be able to migrate back to the bayou tied up and with the momentum to grab two crucial home wins.
Match-up Mood Music: