Klay Thompson scored 26 points including 14 in the fourth quarter and Stephen Curry added 22 points and six assists as the Golden State Warriors defeated the New Orleans Pelicans 97-87 in game two of the first round of the NBA playoffs. The Warriors lead the series 2-0 in the best of seven series, heading back to Smoothie King Center in New Orleans. In defeat, Anthony Davis scored 26 points,10 rebounds, three assists, two blocks and two steals for the Pelicans.
This was like a heavyweight prize fight from the opening tip. The New Orleans Pelicans and Golden State Warriors went back and forth, throwing body blows after body blows, before the Warriors eventually laid the knockout blow. The Pelicans played well, even leading Golden State by 13. Before that blow -an and-one finish by Klay Thompson, by the way - New Orleans was right there, constantly within a basket or two.
There were some things to take away. The Pelicans did a good job of limiting some of the easy baskets the Warriors got from game one. The points in the paint margin still edged Golden State, but it wasn't as easy as last time. The Pelicans did a good job of crowding the paint, resulting in fewer chances for the Warriors to score, as well as New Orleans limiting Golden State on the offensive glass.
Before the game, the Pelicans got good news and bad news. The news of Tyreke Evans strengthen their rotation, but the loss of Holiday weakened it. The loss of Holiday meant more Norris Cole to both operate and orchestrate the offense while defending, but also placed an extra importance on Evans and his ball handling.
The first half saw the Pelicans start out strong. New Orleans’ defense was great, forcing Golden State to just one shot every time down. After doubling down on Stephen Curry in game one, the Pelicans went with a more traditional approach, defending Curry one-on-one and crowded the paint on the defensive end. Anthony Davis also did a great job of closing out on a few of the jumpers attempted by Curry and Klay Thompson.
Offensively, the return of Evans was great for New Orleans. Having someone who can attack the paint opened up the perimeter for New Orleans’ shooters. Evans and Davis on the floor created a ton of good looks for Eric Gordon. Gordon went 3-3 from beyond the arc in the first quarter and 4-5 in total. While his driving game was erased by Thompson, the pick and roll between Davis and Evans, provided fruit as Gordon was there, ready for the open catch and shoot opportunities.
Transitioning into the second quarter, the Warriors turned it on, thanks to bench production. The bench for New Orleans, gifted an eleven-point lead, continued to bend against Golden State’s bench. On the defensive end, Alexis Ajinica looked helpless around the rim and Leonardo Barbosa got a couple good looks offensively and Andre Iguodala hit a three to spark a timeout and forced Monty Williams to put the starters back in.
When everyone came back in, the Warriors saw their star players rebound after a poor first quarter. That's when the burner of the second quarter turned up. New Orleans shot 50 percent in the second quarter in a balanced effort. Norris Cole did a good job of handling the offensive duties in the second unit, Tyreke Evans continued to fight through injury, getting to the basket and finding shooters and of course, Anthony Davis got some good looks.
On the other end, the offensive juggernaut emerged. The Warriors shot 78 percent from the field. The only blemish from Golden State's second quarter was that the Warriors committed all three turnovers in the quarter. Draymond Green once again put together a monster effort in the pick and roll and this is where the Splash Brothers got hot. While working hard on the defensive end, the combination of Curry and Thompson scored 14 in the final six minutes of the quarter, including three threes between the two, turning a deficit into a three point lead heading into halftime.
After two interesting quarters, both teams went a cold in the third quarter, struggling to put the ball in the basket Golden State shot a poor 29 percent from the field and failed to knock down a three ball. Curry led the Warriors with six points, but on 3-8 shooting. On New Orleans’ end, the Pelicans also went frigid, shooting 26 percent and couldn’t get some rather easy finishes. Evans and Davis both finished with six points, while Eric Gordon scored five.
For New Orleans specifically, this is where I thought Holiday was missed the most. After Tyreke Evans and Norris Cole went cold, the Pelicans didn’t have much after Anthony Davis. Evans was attacking the basket well, drawing fouls, but this was a point where the Pelicans needed anyone to step up and couldn’t find anyone to take that step forward.
It was a great defensive quarter from both sides, but for New Orleans, when you’re stopping the best offense in the league, you have to score on the other end.
The fourth quarter was tough. It was a back and forth game. The Warriors had the start of the quarter, pulling away a bit, but the Pelicans fought, maintaining a deficit of just one or two baskets. Golden State’s 11-4 run to start the fourth didn’t do much, but it gave the Warriors just enough space to keep the Pelicans at an arm’s distance. Heading into the final five minutes, the score was 88-84 in favor of Golden State. That’s where you wanted to be: right there.
And that’s where the Pelicans ran out of gas, unfortunately. The Warriors went on a 14-5 run to close it out. Thompson scored 10 points in the final five minutes and 14 in total in the fourth. While the hot takes took over twitter, Anthony Davis, already 40 minutes in, couldn’t pull New Orleans through the final stages. Davis went 0-5 in the final five minutes as the Pelicans fell into the 0-2 hole, heading back into the blender.
We got playoff notes!
- First one is Golden State related. I love Draymond Green. There were moments where Davis got past him for easy baskets and got him off balanced for a couple jumpers, but when it mattered, Steve Kerr placed Draymond on Davis and let it all go. Green played excellent defense on Davis all game and as Davis’ stamina wained, Green’s job became slightly easier and having someone who can neutralize your best player as your stars can score became the difference.
- I didn’t give Cole much credit for his performances, but in game one he played well and in game two, as New Orleans’ second unit fell short on the defensive end, Cole scored eight points to keep the lead in place for the starters. He isn’t a good basketball player, but I laugh at how he finds a way to make a couple good plays per game. Hat tip to you, Norris.
- Monty Williams did a good job. I know Monty is a punching bag for many and even I still believe that the Pelicans should consider replacing him in the offseason. That said, Williams did a good job of coaching in the first half, juggling his starters, playing Davis and leading him lead charge for the entire first quarter and using the Cunningham-Davis-Anderson frontcourt. The second half was so-so, but I liked the first half work and I don’t believe this defeat was all on him.
- Anthony Davis is a god, even with the 9-22 performance.
- Man, Ryan Anderson is bumming me out. The weird thing is that he provides both a mismatch and a disadvantage for New Orleans. The lineup of a ball handler, a shooter, Cunningham and Davis out there with Anderson, you can force opponents to have to deal with the driver AND Davis, with two shooters on the perimeter. Anderson needs to not just be the shooter, but actually make them. On the other end, man, his defense is bad. Really bad, especially when switched onto a pick and roll.
- I think the Pelicans will win game three. Smoothie King Center will be electric and I think we’ll get a good, possibly even great Anthony Davis performance. The Pelicans have some things that worked (small ball lineup, Davis/Evans pick and roll), but they need to have them working together in unison in order to snag a game in this series.
Regardless, game two was awesome and New Orleans threw the kitchen sink at Golden State. Now, the Pelicans have to do that again and amongst Pelican faithful, get a victory.