Welp, the Pelicans find themselves in a familiar position once more this month: their backs are up against the wall yet again. During the final week of the regular season, New Orleans had to win their last two games on the schedule to earn a postseason berth. Now, the team finds itself down 0-3 to the Warriors in a best of seven series. Another loss and the Pelicans off-season starts tomorrow.
After three games, The Bird Writes has touched on a number of keys to victory. None of them have been off the mark, but the problem is when the Pelicans handle one issue, another obstacle seemingly always appears.
Rebounding will not be an issue
Thus, we can probably forgo mentioning something like rebounding. In Game 3, the Pelicans gave up 22 offensive rebounds, but 10 of them came in the fourth quarter. In fact, 5 occurred within the final 2 minutes of the game.
They were all costly, but the last one in regulation stung the most. After already giving Stephen Curry one opportunity to tie the game with five seconds left, Marreese Speights gave him another try a few ticks of the clock later by hitting the glass. As you know, Steph didn't miss that one.
No doubt, the Pelicans coaching staff has probably stressed the importance of defensive rebounding multiple times in the last 48 hours. Viewing game tape has probably reminded the players another dozen times. Consequently, we should assume that hitting the boards hard, especially on the defensive side of the ball, is not going to be a problem.
Say goodbye to the fastbreak points?
If the Pelicans do indeed make rebounding a priority, especially with the guards giving assistance (after all Gordon, Evans, Cole and Holiday combined for 8), I expect the 23 fast break points accumulated by the Pelicans in Game 3 to become a distant memory. It's hard to push the ball when all five players will likely be camping inside the arc with their bodies in position to snare any carom off the rim.
We could probably play this logic chain game in a variety of ways, so let's focus our attention on the past results of the series.
Even series expect for the occasional hiccup
Here are the standard statistics so far for the series:
|Field Goal %||Free Throw %||Three Point %||Rebounds||Assist||Steals||Blocks||Turnovers|
For the most part, these numbers are rather identical. One certainly would never gleam that one team would be knocking on the door for a sweep of the series.
The advanced statistics are not that much more revealing, especially if one excludes the rebounding percentages. Are we really going to learn a lot from a 3-game sample where the Pelicans gave up 22 offensive rebounds in one instance?? (FYI: the highest number of OREB in a regular season game by the Warriors was 19 twice)
No, where I want to concentrate your attention is on the first quarter of Game 1, the second quarter of Game 2 and the fourth quarter of Game 3. In those three time periods, the Warriors outscored the Pelicans by 15, 14 and 20 respectively for a total of 49 points. In the remaining nine quarters, the Pelicans have outscored the Warriors by 32 points. 3 out of 12 quarters, one in each game, have haunted the Pelicans.
Can they change the tune?
Flip a Coin
On Friday morning, Andrew Alexander asked me for my prediction for Game 4, my final question on his radio show found on 910 AM out of Baton Rouge. I honestly had no idea on how to answer it. We've seen nothing but the Jekyll and Hyde feature in every single game from the Pelicans : peaks always accompanied by valleys..
It doesn't help matters that the latest game cut the deepest. A thoroughly dominating performance by the home team in front of their crowd in New Orleans for three quarters was eviscerated in 12 minutes, and suddenly the Pelicans find themselves just one more loss away from making summer plans.
I don't have much doubt the Pelicans will play hard. Effort has rarely ever been an issue with this team, even after some seriously disappointing losses over the course of the last 5 months. However, losing three straight games where at least one win should have been expected might have damaged a few young, impressionable psyches.
If Anthony Davis remains undeterred and can lead by example one more time, the Pelicans have a decent chance of pulling out a win. If not, the focus for all fans and writers alike will quickly turn to the upcoming draft and free agency.