As the New Orleans Pelicans’ march towards the playoffs continues, they find themselves in Oakland pitted against the formidable Golden State Warriors on Saturday. Waiting for them will be a motivated and irritated opponent. After losing to the Pacers in blowout fashion in their last game, coach Steve Kerr looked to send a message and the words that came out were “pathetic” and “embarrassing.“
You can imagine the Pelicans won’t face anything less than fully motivated Warriors team come tip-off. For the Pelicans it’s the same story: Win and possibly secure a better playoff seed; lose and a lot of hell possibly breaks loose.
As of Saturday afternoon, the Pels stand 5th in the drama-filled Western Conference coming to a climax next Wednesday.
That 5th seed could momentarily turn into a 7th or 8th seed, or a worse case scenario 9th, with a loss today, considering they’re only a half-game up on the teams behind them and NOLA owns few tiebreakers. The good news: no playoff hopeful has an easy matchup tonight, as they all face teams currently over .500.
Of course, New Orleans can only worry about what’s in front of them. When they open their eyes, they’ll see a potential postseason matchup, one that they experienced little to no success three years ago. But with a win today, maybe that will matter a whole lot less going forward. Let’s have a look at a few key elements before the opening tip.
- Playoff rematch?
Players won’t tell you this, but they all have matchups that even they know aren’t good for them. How about a team you haven’t beaten in three years for starters?
As @PrestonEllis mentioned on latest podcast, the Pelicans have lost 24 of last 25 matchups (including playoffs) to Warriors.— Oleh Kosel (@OlehKosel) April 7, 2018
Know when that lone win came?
Back during final days of 2014-15 season -- When New Orleans was fighting tooth and nail to edge out OKC for the playoffs. pic.twitter.com/8tBkC20c11
A healthy Warriors team would be that ill-fitting matchup for the Pels. But with Stephen Curry’s absence expected to seep past the first round, the matchup would be different.
The Warriors still pose an extreme threat by carrying three other All-Stars, but their super team isn't quite as potent without their real MVP. Saturday’s matchup could be a sneak peek at how this Pelicans squad stacks up in what should be a back and forth contest.
- Baby-faced Niko
Nikola Mirotic should probably shave all of his hair off at this point. We know all about the game, month, and day splits. We here at The Bird Writes bring you a new installment that you’ll love: “The Beard Splits.”
Niko Mirotic with beard in NOLA:
13.1 ppg. 7.7 rebounds
Babyface Niko Mirotic in NOLA:
28.0 ppg. 11.5 rebounds.
This could honestly be Niko just showing out a lot against two bad teams. But with his starting spot in the rotation seemingly sealed, we’ll find out sooner rather than later. Steph was the last baby-faced assassin to reign supreme. We hope Niko is the next, even if it’s only in New Orleans.
- More Instant Grits?
New Orleans Pelicans fans are fascinated with Jordan Crawford. Maybe it’s his scoring style or his “Instant Grits” nickname being flat out the best NOLA has seen in some time. Regardless, Crawford may have a chance of filling an important role against the Warriors Saturday because decisive and confident play is required. Crawford made five months off look routine Friday against the Suns with his performance of 13 points in just nine minutes of action.
The key Saturday will be the expected shootout in Oracle Arena. That will require the Pels to need offense from more than just the core players. If a ton of offense is needed, expect the pot to be hot and ready. You can imagine Instant Grits will be the first one with his hand up.
What: New Orleans Pelicans vs. Golden State Warriors
Where: Oracle Arena
When: 7:30 pm Central
How: Fox Sports New Orleans, 99.5 FM WRNO