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Game Three Preview: New Orleans Pelicans vs Golden State Warriors

Two competitive games in Oakland have raised expectations for Pelican fans. Can the team meet them with a victory in game three?

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Through two games we are exactly where everyone expected this series to be; a 2-0 lead for the Golden State Warriors over the New Orleans Pelicans. The actual path getting to this point has not gone according to script. The Pelicans were supposed to get blown out repeatedly. Looking like a flawed team with a flawed head coach running a poor defense and an even poorer offense against the best team in the NBA was the forecast. That has not come to pass.

Instead it is the Pelican team creating more open shots. An abysmal team defending the rim all season, New Orleans has just been outscored by four points in the paint. All of this has led to Pelican fans and writers maintaining a positive outlook on the next two games in the Smoothie King Center. All of this despite losing key cogs in each game; Tyreke Evans missed much of game one while Jrue Holiday did not play at all in game two.

While New Orleans has executed their game plan quite well it still has yet to lead to a victory. Golden State is that good, they had made the Pelicans pay dearly for every mistake, no matter how small. Live ball turnovers feel like they always lead to points, and more often than not 3-point attempts for the Warriors.

The stars of this series; Anthony Davis, Stephen Curry, and Draymond Green are all logging heavy minutes. Davis and Green are each averaging over 42 a game (42.6 for Davis, 42.1 for Green) while Curry is not too far behind at 38.6. Green continues to bolster his defensive player of the year case (voting concluded with the end of the regular season) while Curry and Davis appear to be headed toward a decade long battle for MVP honors.

True (and hilarious) story, Green will be the highest paid of these three players next season. While Green is headed toward free agency this summer Davis will be in the final year of his rookie contract and Curry is still on his "ankle discount" extension signed in 2012 which took effect for the 2013-14 season. He will not be a free agent until 2017-18.

Keys to Victory

Make Open Shots: It really is boiling down to this all series. The Pelicans are posting a 48.7% eFG%  on uncontested shots so far this series. The Warriors have a 62.2% eFG% on fewer (74 for GSW, 78 for NOP) shot attempts. It is the difference of 16 points through two games, which have been decided by a total of 17 points. While New Orleans is shooting below their season long average (52.7%) Golden State is shooting well above (57.8% in the regular season).

Step Up on the Big Stage: So far Holiday has been limited and Ryan Anderson has been completely ineffective. Anderson struggling on the road, where he has shot 35.4% from the field and 27.2% behind the arc this season, is sadly not an enormous surprise. Thankfully, home Ryno is a completely different story, averaging 16.1 points and 5.7 rebounds while shooting 44.6% from the field and 41.7% behind the arc. Don't think highlight reels like this haven't found their way to Steve Kerr's desk.

Take Advantage: On more than one occasion the Pelicans have botched easy points in this series. Turnovers on the fast break and one spectacular case of Anthony Davis missing an open dunk have turned into wide open 3-pointers for Stephen Curry.

Remember What They Said: The pressure all series is on Golden State. Everyone predicted the Warriors to steamroll the Pelicans this series. There is no reason to be tight or nervous. Feed off the energy of a packed Blender. Enjoy your only trip to the playoffs without the over hanging dread of expectations. Those will come later.

What: Pelicans vs Warriors

Where: Smoothie King Center

When: April 23, 8:30 PM

How: Fox Sports New Orleans, TNT