Kevin Durant and the Golden State Warriors are experiencing unexpected turbulence before their season even gets off the ground. The San Antonio Spurs mauled the Warriors in Oracle Arena on opening night. Mauled is not hyperbole in the least. LaMarcus Aldridge, David Lee, and Dewayne Dedmon pounded Golden State on the glass to the tune of 21 offensive rebounds and 26 second chance points. Gregg Popovich attacked the fire of the new and improved Warriors by sticking with two traditional big men and it worked to glorious effect.
Steve Kerr probably sent Popovich a fruit basket with a fabulous bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon. Nothing could possibly help Kerr’s efforts to get the team’s complete attention better than getting their butts handed to them on national television. Next on the docket to bounce back? The New Orleans Pelicans.
Alvin Gentry, you can rest assured, will not go to the same well Popovich did schematically. Crashing the offensive glass? Inconceivable. Playing big? Gentry is still on a mission to continue to prove Mike D’Antoni and himself right on playing small and fast.
New Orleans will try to fight fire with fire. When the Warriors go to their Death Lineup (Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Andre Iguodala, Kevin Durant, and Draymond Green) look for Gentry to counter with Tim Frazier, E’Twaun Moore, Lance Stephenson (or Buddy Hield or Langston Galloway), Solomon Hill, and Anthony Davis. Omer Asik might not start and will hardly play. Alexis Ajinca might get a chance as a second unit fulcrum.
In other words, prepare for a bloodbath.
The Warriors are going to be angry and focused. The Pelicans are still undermanned and missing their second and third best players under contract in Jrue Holiday and Tyreke Evans. Anyways, here’s what to watch for tonight.
Finish possessions on defense: The Pelicans defensive rebounding is going to sink their small ball lineups unless they improve dramatically. Kenneth Faried had a field day against New Orleans in the fourth quarter and the inability to secure the ball after a miss made the comeback attempt far more difficult than necessary. Keep your eye on the Pelican defenders after a shot attempt goes up. Do they seek an opponent to box out or turn to watch the basketball? If they pick option A more often than they did on Wednesday night they might have a chance.
Buddy Hield break out: As Oleh outlined late on Thursday Buddy was able to get himself a number of quality looks and simply rushed the execution end, missing a handful of gimmes we should expect him to convert at a high rate going forward. On the second unit Hield will likely matchup frequently with fellow rookie Patrick McCaw, easing the degree of difficulty adjusting to the NBA level.
Encore! Encore!: Anthony Davis has already feasted on these Warriors before in the 2015 NBA Playoffs. Last season? Not so much. He averaged 22 points and 11 rebounds in three games but shot just 31.6% from the field in three contests. While expecting another 50 point outing is patently absurd for the Pelicans to be competitive Davis will probably need to reach 30 or more. Will Alvin Gentry manage AD’s minutes with a game coming up the following night in San Antonio or should we expect Davis to log 40 minutes a night until his body begins to break down?
What: New Orleans Pelicans vs. Golden State Warriors
Where: Smoothie King Arena
When: 8:30 PM Central