Kevin Barrios: Role players knocking down open perimeter shots
E’Twaun Moore, Ian Clark and Darius Miller shoot 40% on open threes. Golden State has the length and defensive versatility to give the Pelicans’ Big Three more problems than most teams and that is where the Warriors will be focused. Like the Pels lived with Aminu, Turner and Harkless getting cleanish looks, Golden State will do the same with our “other guys.” If those three are successful, New Orleans will be successful, too.
Chris Conner: Strong confidence levels and tough mindset
This isn’t the same Pelicans team the Warriors met in the playoffs three years ago. Forgetting the roster differences for a moment, the biggest reason will be New Orleans mindset and confidence. There’s not a guy in their locker room that doesn’t expect to win.
The Pelicans appeared in big games involving tough circumstances all season and persevered. I also believe that regular season win in Oakland (even being of the regular season variety) was huge for them mentally. The simple fact that adversity isn’t an intimidating obstacle will help New Orleans close out the type of games they failed to in the teams’ last postseason meeting.
As a side note, an upset series victory could mean Anthony Davis might be the best player on the floor game in and out — Something that arguably the great LeBron James wasn’t able to accomplish last season against the Warriors.
Jamile Dunn: Strong bench play
New Orleans reserves will be key in this series. Although benches are somewhat less important in the playoffs, teams still need to be able to hold or grow leads when starters are getting a rest.
The play of Ian Clark and Cheick Diallo will be huge. Clark needs to give the Pels solid scoring and pesky defense on the perimeter when either Rondo or Jrue is off the floor. In the case of Diallo, his inexperience was obvious in the Portland series and he paid for it with reduced minutes. I suspect Gentry will give him another chance early in this GSW series due to his superior athleticism, ability to rebound and defensive versatility. His hustle and energy could be a big boost in a series that promises to be one of the fastest paced series in playoff history.
Preston Ellis: Limit turnovers
If the Pelicans are to win ANY games, they cannot give the Warriors extra opportunities to score because they were the most efficient team in the NBA, finishing with a field goal percentage above 50%.
The Pelicans must create the advantage in the turnover department as they did earlier this month. On April 7th, Golden State only managed to create eight turnovers against New Orleans, though they coughed it up 17 times, a tick above their 15.4 regular season average.
This will be of particular importance should Stephen Curry play close to a full accompaniment of minutes. With the Warriors having the obvious shooting advantage in the series, the Pelicans must create some superiority elsewhere.
Oleh Kosel: Average 115+ points
It may sound simplistic, but averaging a ton of points gives the Pelicans their best chance to pull off the incredible upset. Realistically, no defense can effectively slow down more than one of their fire-breathers any given day so the only option is to post some gaudy scoring numbers.
The Pelicans posted a record of 39-8 in the regular season when topping 110 points. However, the Warriors matchup will demand a higher scoring average so arbitrarily I’m raising it to 115. When opponent’s totaled 115+, Golden State had a record of 9-13 in those high-scoring affairs.
Although it’s not a sure thing, I’ve got Davis, Holiday, Mirotic and Rondo penciled in for about 90 points in the potential victories. That means, the rest of the group is going to have to combine for about 25 additional points. Moore, Miller and Clark are all going to have to have their moments.
Brett David Roberts: New Orleans stars show, while Golden State’s not as much
It would be a combination of two or three things, depending on how you look at it:
A) Simply, Anthony Davis going absolutely bonkers, extra-worldly, like. The Warriors do not have anyone capable of covering Davis, and that includes Defensive Player of the Year Draymond Green.
B) Jrue Holiday will have to be all over defensively while still performing at a high level on the offensive end. The idea that he out-plays either Klay Thompson or Stephen Curry is not out-landish, but he is going to have to do that, while also getting plenty of help from playoff hero Rajon Rondo. The backcourt matchup needs to be an “even” proposition to highlight the advantage the Pelicans have at the 5 spot — and this still ignores the fact that there has to be some reasonable answer for Kevin Durant. The Pelicans are not blessed enough to have two or three Jrue Holidays, and it would really take such a hypothetical to put the clamps on the Dubs’ wings.
C) Stephen Curry must be rusty and show it. That’s an extension off part B. If Curry comes out in MVP form, this series will be really damn tough to win.
Travis Tate: Anthony Davis and Jrue Holiday continue to shine like stars
Wow - there’s no way we win this series unless AD and Jrue continue to do what they’ve been doing in the playoffs. Both can get their own shot at any time and make impactful plays on defense. They will be reasons 1 and 2, but admittedly in a series win, it will also take Rondo, Darius, Diallo, Mirotic and everybody else!