After suffering a disappointing 123-101 defeat in the opener, the New Orleans Pelicans (0-1) hope to bounce back against the Golden State Warriors (1-0) in Game 2 of the Western Conference semifinals on Tuesday evening.
While a victory would take the cake, the goal for Alvin Gentry’s squad should be to remain competitive throughout the entirety of the next contest. Losing the previous second quarter by a 41-21 margin — the biggest negative point differential in a quarter this season for the Pelicans, squashed all hopes of stealing Game 1. As Kevin’s recap outlined, there were a slew of reasons for the disparaging loss, but none bigger from a big picture perspective than the underwhelming efforts of Anthony Davis and Jrue Holiday.
After averaging 33.0 points, 11.8 rebounds and 9.5 free throw attempts against the Trail Blazers in Round 1, Davis was held to 21 points, 10 rebounds and four trips to the line in Game 1. Jrue Holiday, who was sporting playoff splendidness of 27.8 points, 6.5 assists and 4.3 free throw attempts, finished with 11 points, four assists and just a couple of attempts from the charity stripe. After combining for 60 points versus Portland, the duo managed just 32 against Golden State.
That type of production isn’t going to fly for the rest of this series if New Orleans is adamant about making some noise. As we’ve been fortunate to witness, the NBA playoffs is the moment for stars to shine. Davis and Holiday were not up to task for the first time in this postseason, but in Saturday’s opener, there were plenty of fireworks launched from Golden State’s side. Klay Thompson and Kevin Durant made the biggest scoring impacts, combining for 53 points, 19 rebounds, seven three-pointers and four blocks; however, Draymond Green deserves a nod for his 16-point, 15-rebound, 11-assist triple-double.
Of course, AD and Jrue can’t do it alone — even if they solve the defensive shroud implemented by Durant, Green and Kevon Looney. Nikola Mirotic is going to need to resemble Gilette’s newest spokesperson, not the single-digit scorer seen earlier in the regular season. When Niko has failed to score ten points or more, the Pelicans have a woeful 2-8 record. While Rajon Rondo nearly posted a triple-double (nine points, 11 assists, eight rebounds), he totaled zero points, two assists and two rebounds after halftime. That can’t happen because Rondo derives so much of his value by keeping the Pelicans mighty offense purring like a kitten. Lastly, Ian Clark needs to remember to play like a confident sixth man scorer we’ve become accustomed to watching over the last few months.
While it may sound like a lot to ask for, it’s really not. The Pelicans were playing excellent basketball before the week long break after sweeping Portland. The starting lineup was hammering opponents. Players were comfortable in their roles. The defense was stifling at the right times. Executing for close to 48 minutes was the norm, not the just the first 13 minutes we witnessed of Game 1.
Maybe not playing competitive basketball for a week had something to do with the slippage of performance seen in quarter number two, but I’m not buying it too much because New Orleans started Game 1 with the requisite intensity and focus. Rather, I just think the Pelicans lost their composure and then failed to rise up to the challenge. It probably also didn’t help matters that the team likely spent a lot of time game planning for Stephen Curry, and if not him, either Kevon Looney or JaVale McGee in Golden State’s starting lineup. Nick Young was a nice screwball after laying the Curry bait earlier in the week. This level of unexpectedness — plus Durant shadowing Holiday on defense, Rondo being given space less than 10 feet from the rim and other first-time nuances — isn’t going to catch the Pelicans coaching staff by this much surprise a second time.
Therefore, the keys to the game are straightforward because the troops should have all the necessary information — even if Stephen Curry suits up.
- Play hard — Never let that motor wane. Not for a rebound, a screen or anything else.
- Play smart — Don’t commit overzealous fouls and maintain patience for good shots.
- Play for each other — Trust the system and avoid temptations of isolation basketball.
What: New Orleans Pelicans at Golden State Warriors
Where: Oracle Arena
When: May 1, 2018, 9:30 pm Central
How: TNT, 99.5 FM WRNO