At the Bird Writes, our biases are unabashedly naked. We are all Pelicans fans first, and we feel the same gloom and despondency as you, the fans of not only the Pelicans but of the world-class city of New Orleans. Here, we are all a community of real fans as well, unlike many "day one" fans who will text you about "Chef Curry" being the "true MVP."
The fan side of me is still coursing through my blood streams, but I will really try to write a coherent article, after deleting all of my spiteful tweets directed at Draymond Green, Harrison Barnes, and Mareese Speights, knowing that if they saw them, it would make their victory all the sweeter.
First, let's take a nice paragraph to acknowledge the amazing feat that the... no let's not. It's too painful. So the first section of this article will talk about the first three quarters, while the next section will discuss the rest of the catastrophe. Hopefully the conclusion will help put things into perspective.
It seems like an eternity ago, doesn't it? The Pelicans had a 20 point lead, despite poor refereeing (see fines doled out by Commissioner Silver tomorrow to both Green and Barnes) and a strong first quarter from the Warriors' Steph Curry and Klay Thompson. But Davis came to play, bracing the storm and leading the Pelicans into a gigantic lead. Abetting his assault were Ryan Anderson, Jrue Holiday, Norris Cole, and Tyreke Evans.
The Pelicans did three key things that allowed them to go into the fourth quarter with a 20 (oh my gosh, that is a lot) point lead.
First, the Pelicans ran the game and set the pace. They matched the Warriors in transition points, forcing turnovers with pressing defense against players without great ball handling and running after every rebound. Even when they did not score in transition, the Pels attacked the rim before the Warriors got set up. The Pelicans controlled the pace and had the Warriors bamboozled by what had hit them.
Second, the Pelicans created space for Tyreke to work. In my last article, I wrote about how coming home would bring a resurgence to the level of Evans' play. I wasn't wrong. Evans put on a show and did not settle for jump shots. His drives opened up space for players like Norris Cole and Dante Cunningham, and Evans, for once, appeared to be in total control.
Third, the Pelicans boxed out. This circuits back to the first point about setting the pace, because the Pelicans dominance of the defensive glass, even on long rebounds, allowed them to run in transition, where the converted every possible chance. Additionally, it prevented Golden State from easy put-backs or free position leading to kick outs (foreshadowing for all of my AP Literature fans).
Quarter 4 and OT
I feel like I'm writing a novel right now, and I've just gotten to the chapter about the collapse of the furrow-browed, lax bad guys, defeated by brave, suave, heroic warriors standing up for what's right. We all know that's not the case (the Pelicans are clearly the good guys), but it was a comeback that you could write a book on, especially since history is determined by the victor.
The Warriors did live up to their name in fairness, personifying the "never say die" attitude preached by their brilliant rookie coach in huddles. Of course, it was a monumental collapse as well from the Pelicans, the third biggest in NBA playoff history.
The Warriors basically started playing lockdown defense and getting offensive rebounds. They shot the ball well, but those stats were inflated by Draymond Green putbacks and Andrew Bogut tip-outs; it's not like the Warriors were not extinguishable.
The Pelicans chose not to play Omer Asik for the entirety of the fourth quarter, and eventually it caught up to them. Although Anderson was the only person to hit shots for the Pels, he also did not man the middle like Asik did. Green had a red carpet unfurled for him on the way to offensive rebounds and Bogut was always too big for the player boxing him out. From those offensive rebounds, the Warriors were able to reset their offense against an exhausted defense. That defense bent until it broke.
Then, the Warriors set the pace. With offensive rebounds, they were able to dissuade Monty Williams' team from the same transition offense that earned New Orleans the lead the lead and deplete the supply of aggressive defense that led to so many fast break layups. The Pelicans offense turned to Ryan Anderson, but the lack of ball movement and plethora of long shots and out-of-control attempts gave the Warriors numbers in transition, and they made the Pelicans pay.
The final play of the fourth quarter was a microcosm of the period: decent defense that was nullified by an offensive rebound and a quick, open shot.
In overtime, the Pelicans really did not play too bad. They played excellent defense, but offensive rebounds again proved to be the winner for the Warriors, as they ate clock and dominated possession. The Pelicans were simply sapped and did not box out. A nine man rotation in an overtime game can lead to that.
It's a crushing blow. However, nobody was talking about the Pelicans winning the championship this year. Deep in our minds, we might all have had a vision of that illustrious trophy but we knew those thoughts were dreams. This is still a very young team with a lot of potential and a team still learning to gel. All of these guys now have an adequate amount of playoff experience (a demoralizing loss like this counts for several years of heartache). Better now than five years down the road in the Finals.
The Pelicans now know just what to do next game, because everything they did for three quarters was right. The Warriors could have played better, but that's basketball.
The Warriors have been through the disappointing games and now look where they are. There's a lot to learn, but you can bet that the Pels won't slacken in any game, ever again, regardless of the size of the schism on the scoreboard. No Pelicans player will ever forget this comeback.
Deplorable, yes. Still hurting, yes. Shocking, yes. Emotionally bruising, yes. Irreparably damaging, no. At the end of the day, you could write a story about this. But the story has not concluded, even if the chapter has. Every protagonist in good stories falls and fails, and learns from their missteps. Our protagonists will do the same, and the returns will be all the more special.