There is a reason the Warriors were the number one seed in the Western Conference. Through the first 3 games of the series, they flashed plenty of superb play, but tonight New Orleans was hit with the whole package. Sure, the Pelicans made a run in the fourth quarter, but there never grew a strong belief that the comeback would culminate in a home victory.
From the opening tip, Golden State never let off the gas and the Warriors' key players made their presence known immediately. Stephen Curry and Draymond Green were outstanding in the first half, scoring 20 a piece. Klay Thompson chipped in 15. When the best team in the NBA has their three best offensive players shoot 20-29 in the first 24 minutes, the theme from Mission Impossible should cue in your head.
Draymond Green's 17 points are his most in any half this season.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) April 26, 2015
As mentioned, the Pelicans made the game respectable late in the second half. Despite not pulling out the win, it was important for the team to not roll over after everything they've accomplished this month. If they were not going to salvage a win in the series, at the very least, fighting to the bitter end was the mandate. At the end of the day, it's vital to have something for a young team climbing up the ladder to hang their hat on.
After three quarters of Game 3, the Pelicans led by 20 points. They lost and will forever be known as the losing team in one of the greatest playoff comebacks in NBA history. Tonight, they were down 21 points after three quarters. Realistically, only 12 minutes remained in their season and it would have been very easy to go through the motions. That's a lot of heartbreak combined with overwhelming odds.
They never quit and thank you for that! A mentality was born this season, and with it never swaying, it'll serve the Pelicans well every day they spend this off-season in the weight room, in the gym or in group activities that further strengthen their camaraderie.
Draymond Green got the Warriors rolling early with 7 opening points; the Pelicans kept pace with long jumpers from Anthony Davis and Eric Gordon. In general the Warriors stayed hot (7-12, 3-4 deep), but Pelicans didn't waver, as evidenced by a 19-19 tie through the first 8 minutes.
The Pelicans effort was wonderful, and it was spearheaded by AD. For instance, he had a great tip-out at the 4:39 mark that led to 2 points. Moments earlier, he attacked the paint and got Andrew Bogut to pick up a 2nd personal foul.
However, following a Golden State timeout with 2:15 remaining, the Pelicans hit a dry patch where they came up empty on 6 of their last 7 possessions. Meanwhile, the Warriors experienced no such issues. After Green's torrid start, Curry took over and scored 9 of GSW's final 14 points of the first quarter. In fact, he and Green were responsible for 27 of the Warriors 31 point total.
In the second quarter, Kerr decided to not bring Thompson back in immediately. With no starters on the floor (a rarity for Kerr), there was the sense the Pelicans could make a run. Unfortunately, their reserves maintained the margin well through a number of easy lay-ins.
Then, a short while later, Harrison Barnes, Klay and Green were all back on the floor. Monty countered with Davis for the Pelicans. At the 6:03 mark, the deficit was just 4 points; by the time the first half ended, it had ballooned to 13.
Honestly, it felt like it should have been more. Green, Curry and Thompson had just combined for 55 points! Thankfully, Davis wasn't alone in his crusade tonight: Gordon had come to play and he matched Davis' 19 point output of the first half.
Back on April 7th, the Pelicans rallied from a 12 point halftime disadvantage. Tonight, it was one worse. Could New Orleans stage another comeback against the team with the best record in the league?
In the second half, the Pelicans quickly cut the deficit back to single digits, but it should have been more impressive. For whatever the reason, Tyreke Evans was playing well below his standards. He was involved in several plays, that had he come up with the ball, the Pelicans charge could have amounted to something greater.
Welp, before you knew it, the Warriors seized back control with a 7-0 run to take their biggest lead of the game at 16 points. The misery continued for the rest of the frame. The Pelicans only ended up scoring 13 points in the quarter and it really felt like a fourth quarter wasn't necessary for anyone in attendance.
Wouldn't you know it? An 88-67 lead heading into the fourth quarter, didn't deter the Pelicans. The reserves got the ball rolling with a 9-0 run in the first two minutes. Over the final 10 minutes, the Pelicans would go on to add another 23 points. Regrettably, the Warriors scored 21. The game was made interesting several times, but with the clock moving invariably closer to double zeroes and the Warriors converting points when they had to, the comeback fell well short of it's goal.
- Anthony Davis was an absolute monster this series. In the 4 games, he put up averages of 31.5 PPG, 11 REB, 2 AST, 3 BLK and 1.3 STL. Out of 36 free throw attempts in the series, he only missed 3. Up against the best defense in the NBA, he finished with a 54 FG%. In his postgame comments, Steve Kerr was absolutely right to tell AD that he was happy he wasn't going to be facing him anymore -- a fine compliment to a future multiple MVP winner.
- Eric Gordon played extremely well from start to finish: 29 points, 5 assists, 3 threes and 3 rebounds. I joked on twitter that fans were finally treated to a showing of Batman and Robin nearly three years later. Back when Davis was drafted, everyone assumed that both he and Gordon were going to be the faces of the franchise. Well, we know what happened with that story, but regardless, it was nice to see Gordon made an impact in 3 of the 4 games of this series. That's more than nearly anyone else can say on this roster.
- Tyreke Evans just didn't have it tonight: 4 points on 2 of 10 from the field. His shot was off, his decision making was questionable at best and he appeared a step slow on defense numerous times. If there's one player who needs to feel 100%, it's him. When Evans is healthy and engaged, he's the bowling ball of this team. When he's not, he's knocking down the wrong pins.
- Omer Asik had a very forgettable series. Over the span of the 4 games, he totaled 8 points. In Game 1, he failed to protect the basket as he normally did during the regular season. By the time the final buzzer sounded tonight, his 14 minutes marked the lowest total of any game this season. Many screamed this series was a terrible matchup, and to some degree they're right, but he should have fared better when Bogut was in the game. Regardless, I want him back on this roster. If Ryan Anderson is staying, it's vital the team has a defender and rebounder of his caliber on this roster.
- Quincy Pondexter had a mammoth line in Game 1, and then he seemingly fell off a cliff. To no surprise, Twitter brought the shovels to bury him as fans were already in discussion about the next candidate for the team's starting SF spot next season. Truth be told, I enjoyed his defensive presence as a whole this series. During the regular season, he proved to be a viable outside threat. I still see that 3 & D player standing right before our very own eyes. Naturally, if some opportunity presents itself to Dell Demps, I'm all for an upgrade and moving Q-Pon to the bench as a valuable reserve. But, he was not as ineffective as this series maybe made him seem. Count me as still very intrigued.
- Jrue Holiday was another game-time decision before tip-off. If there's one good thing about this series ending in four games, it's that Holiday now has time to get himself right. I LOVE Jrue and most of us here at The Bird Writes have been preaching he's the team's second best player on the roster. I truly believe that if he can overcome his troublesome tibia issues, he represents the best opportunity for the team to collectively improve. He brings so much to the table on both sides of the ball, that if he can go through a season unscathed, the Pelicans have a legitimate chance to be in the upper echelon of the Western Conference in 2015-16.
- By all accounts, Ryan Anderson had a down year. He showed some life in these two home playoff games, but largely it's been a horror story since he returned from a knee sprain. Before the season started, I was adamant that we shouldn't be quick to judge him on the results of 2014-15. Fusion spinal surgeries are no joke. What remains to be seen is if he can eventually return to the player we saw several years ago. If so, he definitely still has a valuable role on this roster.
- Dante Cunningham probably had his second best game as a Pelican since the start of March: 10 points, 8 rebounds and he didn't miss a shot from anywhere. It was great to see him end the season on such a positive note, but his role going forward is a precarious one. Davis and Anderson are power forwards. Pondexter is a member of the core and if Demps adds another SF to the mix, where does that leave DC? I know Monty loves him and he provides certain key intangibles, but I'm not sold on his future with the team. He definitely provides some glue, but is that enough?
- Like with Cunningham, the Pelicans wouldn't have made the postseason if they hadn't acquired Norris Cole. He easily had his worst game of the series tonight by missing all 5 of his shots from the floor and making 4 turnovers without an assist to show for it. Moving forward, I like how he clicked with the team, but will Demps be able to retain his services considering the amount of his player option for next season?
As Kerr said after the game, "Cabo."
Hehe, the Pelicans can do whatever they like -- their season is officially done. They'll probably take some time to recharge their batteries; however, I don't expect that will be the case for too long. With a franchise player like Anthony Davis, one can assume he'll get back to work and will demand no less from his supporting cast.
Did you hear some of his post-game comments? Here are some of the notes I jotted down:
- "Tough to win a playoff game."
- "Got to take advantage when you have a lead."
- "Everybody has to be better."
- "Our team played well and we fought in every game, both at home and on the road."
- "Tough to take positives right now, but the organization has come a long way."
From the preseason to every month of the regular season, the 2014-15 New Orleans Pelicans were written off a countless number of times. They never set the world on fire with any consistent dominating play and were consequently punished for it. It was as though they needed to make the jump from a 34 win team to a 50+ shoe-in playoff team.
I'm sorry guys, but it normally doesn't work that way, especially not with a team that endured multiple injuries for a second straight season. Yet despite this, they DID make the 2015 playoffs. They had been playing and winning meaningful basketball games throughout the course of an entire season.
With the close of this series, I want to wish the best of luck to the Golden State Warriors during the rest of their 2015 playoff run. I know our playoff series didn't go as well as many of us had hoped, but it shouldn't have deterred anyone's excitement about the future.