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2018 NBA Playoffs: How will Golden State Warriors seek to attack New Orleans Pelicans and vice versa?

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There’s going to be a lot of studs on the floor so where will each team find their advantages?

NBA: New Orleans Pelicans at Golden State Warriors Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

With Round 2 set to begin this Saturday at 9:30pm central, we dive into ways the Warriors might plan to attack the Pelicans with two members of The Bird Writes and Daniel Hardee of Golden State of Mind.

Offensively, Steve Kerr believes “there is a power in everybody touching the ball.” GSW is once again number one in assist to turnover ratio. How do the Warriors share the ball better than anyone else?

Daniel Hardee (@originalGBW):

Coach Kerr spent his career as a role player and sharpshooter on championship teams. He’s seen Michael Jordan and Tim Duncan score 40, but he’s also been the recipient of their unselfishness in crunch time.

Kerr understands that superstars carry the lion’s share of the scoring responsibility, but eventually defenses are going to hone in on the big guns and make someone else score. If those role players have been standing away from the action, their focus dips and they feel less engaged. As such, their defensive intensity is prone to suffer, and they will be out of rhythm when that superstar desperately needs them to make a play.

To remedy this, he’s borrowed team basketball concepts from the great coaches he’s worked with. There are elements of Phil Jackson’s Triangle Offense for floor-spacing and big-man passing. There’s the movement of Gregg Popovich’s whirring buzzsaw ”motion-weak” offense. And of course, there’s the great Alvin Gentry fine-tuning a wide-open, breakneck pace to generate either layups or threes.

None of that, though, would matter if the superstars didn’t buy into it. Team-first megastar Stephen Curry wholeheartedly bought into the concepts of constant movement, efficiency, and unselfishness. Klay Thompson and Draymond Green are high IQ guys whose talents are maximized in the system. The Warriors surrounded that core three with other intelligent hoopers who sacrifice their individual numbers for the greater good, like Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston.

NBA: Golden State Warriors at New Orleans Pelicans Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Still, perhaps the ultimate compliment to the system was former MVP Kevin Durant’s arrival. He had witnessed the beauty of the Bay’s basketball firsthand, and fled his former team to be baptized into the ‘Splash.’

Today, the ball swings with purpose, everybody gets some of the action, and the Warriors superstars can strike with cobra like efficiency on scrambling defenses. The unselfishness is rather alluring, wouldn’t you say?

Kevin Barrios (@KevinBforBounce):

Things I have noticed that are key factors in the Warriors having a high assist to turnover ratio:

1) Utilizing a lot of dribble hand-offs

2) Solid screen setting big men, a tradition since Andrew Bogut

Draymond Green, Zaza Pachulia, David West, Jordan Bell, JaVale McGee and even the slender Kevin Durant set effective screens. In addition, their roster is full of heady passers that don’t gamble too often and of course MOVEMENT.

The players move off the ball and the ball is constantly moving, which has players constantly ready to be on the receiving end.

Chris Conner (@impatientbull):

It’s a mixture of unselfishness and chemistry. While many marvel at their ability to pace and space, the Warriors are just as deadly in the half court when moving the basketball. They are incredible at setting off-ball screens and possess enough elite shooting even without Steph that almost every pass deserves attention. They also have interchangeable parts capable of running the offense. Once they go to the bench, the pace doesn’t slow down much. Every guy trusts one another and egos are few and far in between. It’s quite the dynamic. They’re very similar to the San Antonio Spurs in how they simply focus on a player’s strengths and allow everyone to have an important role.

Setting off-ball screens to confuse defenses and create open looks is something that makes the Warriors difficult to defend. With Curry out of the lineup, how have teams changed the way they defend the Warriors off-ball movement?

Daniel:

The Spurs were an interesting view into how a top-five defense team would scheme against us in the postseason, sans Curry.

Generally, most teams just switch the Warriors off-ball actions. The strength of this is that closes the window of time that a cutter or shooter will be alone. The weakness is that if a small defender switches onto guarding say, Durant or Thompson, the Warriors are smart enough to exploit that mismatch. If a plodding big gets switched onto a strong ball handler like those guys or Livingston, or Iguodala, then the Warriors can blow by them to break down the defense.

Without Kawhi Leonard’s defensive presence, the Spurs chose to chase Thompson around screens to prevent switching mismatches. He LOVES that, as he can use his unbelievable stamina and sharp instincts to run his defender dizzy. He shot over 50% against the Spurs overall and from three-point range.

The Spurs also attempted to roam off of Green and Iguodala to trap Durant and Thompson. That had mixed results: sometimes the Spurs forced a turnover, but many times the Warriors just kept the ball hopping until someone got a quality shot against the over-committed D.

Chris:

Teams have given them more space and forced two reactions. Force Klay Thompson to have to make multiple dribbles towards the basket and away from the three-point line. Or, to live and die by Draymond Green’s three-point shot.

With Curry, the Warriors have more freedom to move around because you have to start guarding them 30 feet away from the rim. Without him, opponents are able to take several more risks.

The Golden State Warriors boast a top-five defense, with the exception of the month of January where they were 26th. Klay, KD, Draymond and Iggy comprise a scary defensive foursome. How will the Dubs look to defend the Pelicans own foursome of Rondo, Jrue, Niko and AD, three of whom shot 57% in the previous series?

Daniel:

I can tell you what they won’t do: leave Mirotic open. That dude is approaching Splash Brother level devastation from beyond the arc.

New Orleans has such a high IQ: you guys would adapt to any look we give too consistently. Rondo and Holiday are little buzzsaws, constantly probing the pick-and-roll. AD is an all-world talent, who can damn near do anything you want a big man to do.

The Dubs have a ton of length with Iguodala in the lineup, and that provides defensive versatility. I don’t think they will stick with one style of defense. The Warriors have a size advantage over the Pelicans backcourt with Iguodala starting, and I predict they’ll attempt to wall off driving lanes to force contested jumpers from Holiday and Rondo.

I also expect a mixed bag of coverages, including traps when Rondo is off the ball (attempting to force him into jumpshots) and healthy double teams on Davis whenever feasible.

Kevin:

The Warriors have really nice length on that roster. Steph and Draymond are the only guys average to below average for their positions. However, Draymond is strong as an ox as he is versatile — even if he is having a slight off year defensively — so his size isn’t really an issue.

I expect that they will initially try to guard everyone straight up and utilize a switching scheme. However, I’d expect for them to hide their weakest defender on E’Twaun Moore as he is the least likely to burn them.

NBA: Playoffs-New Orleans Pelicans at Portland Trail Blazers Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

Rajon Rondo was very aggressive in the Portland series and will likely continue to try and beat Quinn Cook or a hobbled Steph Curry to the rim, but defending him with Klay Thompson or Iggy should take away that penetration that leads to numerous layups or kick outs.

I believe the Warriors will dare the Pelicans to try to run a larger portion of their offense through Moore, Clark and Miller by giving them the easiest path to touches and the best looks, much like the Pelicans did with Al-Faroqu Aminu and Evan Turner.

Chris:

You would expect them to continue to switch everything and be physical with the Pelicans. The Blazers lacked true physical perimeter and interior threats, allowing the Pels to have their way.

Golden State, however, can throw a variety of different looks at New Orleans. The Warriors are longer and more capable at adjusting than Portland was. They also have a plethora of solid defenders across the board.

Honestly, it shouldn’t surprise anyone if the Warriors implement a strategy very familiar to what New Orleans did to Portland: Force other Pelicans to beat you by throwing multiple players at Anthony Davis and have one of Thompson/Iguodala shadow Holiday.

The issue with that, though, Jrue Holiday, Nikola Mirotic, and Rajon Rondo have all proven they’re beyond capable of creating offense individually and are all wielding the highest degrees of confidence. Golden State will no doubt have their hands full.

Both Draymond and Klay have said they expect Alvin Gentry to have a few surprises for them. What might those be?

Daniel:

Damned if I know! That’s why they call it a surprise :D

Still, Gentry knows the Warriors system intimately so I’m sure will have some annoying tricks up his sleeve for the champs to figure out.

Kevin:

An instant Grits revenge game?

Just kidding, I honestly don’t see Gentry changing up much offensively. He has the roster to play the way he wants to play and it has been successful. I think he stays the course, but maybe adds in a few more off-ball screens to try to free up shooters in an attempt to combat the Warriors’ length.

NBA: New Orleans Pelicans at Golden State Warriors Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

I could also see more time for Cheick Diallo if length becomes a real issue. Defensively is where changes will likely be made as those traps and sagging off of shooters won’t work as well against the Warriors, but I’m not sure what the change is — though I could see Gentry and Erman living with Draymond Green being the guy they bait the Steve Kerr to run his offense through. I’d also think that we see more Solomon Hill to help defend Kevin Durant.

Chris:

No one saw the Pelicans defensive game-plan for the Trail Blazers coming. They could possibly make Draymond Green the Al-Farouq Aminu of the series. That would mean attempting to make life difficult for both Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson consistently and whenever Steph Curry returns, forcing role players to beat them. This sounds plausible in theory but having Curry, Thompson, and KD on the floor stretches a defense incredibly thin. Ignoring Draymond Green could slightly assist them there, but still the Warriors’ stars unfortunately don’t compare to the Blazers. They’re bigger, more skilled, and have conquered every type of scheme built for them.

One positive for New Orleans is both Ian Clark and Alvin Gentry have some familiarity with the sets and style of play Golden State wants to run. More often than not however, the Warriors talent should be expected to reign supreme.

How critical is getting Steph back in a timely manner to eliminating the Pelicans? Without him in the lineup, what is your prediction for game one?

Daniel:

When the former ‘best point guard alive’ returns, RING THE ALARM!

Curry saw how the Pellies torture racked Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum, and I’m sure he’s itching to test just how good the New Orleans backcourt is. The Warriors can afford to make more mistakes when Curry’s on the floor, because he’s a human cheat code who can start 9-0 runs by himself. Without him, the champs margin for error is slim, as the talent gap isn’t so heavily in Golden state’s favor.

In his absence, the Warriors will be in a high speed game of chess against your red hot team. I witnessed a Pelicans team that exploited every crack in the Blazers defenses, and bullied the Blazers offense with impunity. If the Pelicans force Golden State to turn the ball over with opportunistic, pressuring defense, there will be no Curry to bail the Golden Empire out.

However, if the Warriors value their possessions, the Pelicans are in trouble. I believe the difference will be Durant and Thompson scoring directly in the face of Holiday and Rondo. I am convinced that the Pelicans smaller backcourt will concede open looks to two of the greatest shooters of all time. Durant and Thompson need only the slightest windows to deliver devastating scoring binges, and they get bloodthirsty in high-pressure situations.

If the Warriors manage their turnovers decently, I expect the Warriors to narrowly pull out a 117-113 victory on their home court as KD and Thompson unleash scoring fury.

Kevin:

This Warriors team is great and deep with or without Steph, but obviously they are more beatable if they don’t have one of the best shooters and shot creators in league history.

From the Pelicans perspective, I certainly hope he misses a few games. My head says pick Golden State in the series and in Game 1, but my heart and the effort with which this Pelicans team is defending — even with a scheme that will likely have to be adapted — has me believing that we will steal a game in Golden State. The one with no Curry is the safest bet to do so.

I’m going with the Pels to pull off the upset in Game 1, 112-108.

Chris:

It’s very important, but only if he’s close to 100 percent. The Warriors aren’t themselves without Steph Curry, yet a wounded Curry could be even worse. They could always place him on a minutes restriction, but if he isn’t his normal self, could forcing him back into the rotation do more harm than good?

Without Curry, Golden State becomes extremely less dynamic and a little bit more predictable. There’s not another NBA team that can stake claim to multiple top-five NBA players year in and out. The Warriors can, when healthy, and it makes a huge difference.

New Orleans is a dangerous team playing extremely well together and their best stretch of basketball of the season. They have several ways to beat you and matchup nicely against Golden State without Curry.

NOLA has also been solid on the road all season and even won in Oakland less than a month ago. There’s a chance this stage could be the series Anthony Davis shows the world he’s the best player in basketball. The Warriors should be able to survive that with Steph Curry. Without him, the odds could soon shift in the favor of the Pelicans.

Game 1 Prediction: Curry sits; Pelicans stay hot and upset Warriors 115-111.