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NBA Playoff Preview: New Orleans Pelicans hope Sixth Man will help them achieve elusive victory against Golden State Warriors

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If the Pelicans are to swing the tide of momentum, an assist from their New Orleans fan base just might be the ticket.

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

“Hello!? Hello!? Anybody home!? Think McFly Think!”

The New Orleans Pelicans have a Golden State Warriors problem. They’ve lost a staggering 26 of their last 28 matchups against the team from California, including that 4-0 sweep everyone still remembers from the 2015 postseason. The last time the Pelicans managed a win against Golden State in New Orleans was April 7th, 2015. Before that, you’d have to travel back in time to March 8th of 2010.

On the flip side, the Warriors have two of the last three NBA championships, but the current roster is likely the largest juggernaut to date. Since adding Kevin Durant to the mix, they’ve posted a 22-2 playoff record, including a near perfect 16-1 performance during the 2017 playoffs.

“Hello!? Hello!? Anybody home!? Think McFly Think!”

It’s looking more and more likely that the Pelicans beat an unenthused Warrior team earlier this month. Plus that victory on April 7th came without Steph Curry and Shaun Livingston in the rotation.

When the Pelicans battled Warriors in Game 2 on Tuesday night, New Orleans fell short while executing their game plan rather well on both ends of the floor. At a rabid pace, the Pelicans led decisively in fast break points (39-26), points in the paint (66 on 54 shots), committed three fewer turnovers, while rebounding and hounding Klay Thompson markedly better than they did in the opener.

”We’re playing the world champs and you’ve got to play a damned near perfect game to win.’” – Head Coach Alvin Gentry

The Pelicans gave the Warriors perhaps their best shot and it wasn’t enough. Against the champs, even perfection may not be enough.

“Hello!? Hello!? Anybody home!? Think McFly Think!”

New Orleans stood toe to toe with their neighborhood bully, but the Warriors frustrated once more with back door tactics, including wrestling pin downs, leg sweeps, and drawing foul calls that likely even left Paul George scratching his head.

”I don’t ever really get calls, to be completely honest,” said Jrue Holiday after practice on Wednesday. “Some of the calls to me sometimes (in game two) didn’t add up.”

Anthony Davis endured just his second game of the season without a free throw attempt — and in the first, he played a mere five minutes against Portland. AD and Jrue Holiday became the first teammates to attempt 20 shots each without a free throw since 2015, and the first teammates to attempt 24 without a free throw attempt since 2010.

“Sweep the leg. No mercy.”

The Pelicans storybook season is on the verge of reaching its conclusion. To move onto the next round, the Pelicans would have to defeat the NBA’s best team four out of the next five games, including at least once inside the Oracle, where the Warriors seem to be unbeatable in playoff atmospheres.

Oh, and Stephen Curry is set to return to the starting lineup.

“Oh yeah, yeah. He’ll start Game 3,” Head Coach Steve Kerr told Damon Bruce of 95.7 The Game yesterday. “You don’t keep a guy like that on the bench for long.”

Despite a month long layoff, Steph Curry is right back at the height of his powers, and it couldn’t come at a worse time for New Orleans. If you think the Warriors don’t know this fact, you’re kidding yourself.

The Warriors will smell blood heading into Friday night’s matchup. Curry has already preached the importance of racing out to an early lead in Game 3, and Steve Kerr on Klay Thompson’s sudden shooting woes has vowed, “Those shots will go in in New Orleans.”

Will someone lend a Hand?

The Warriors have no doubt done a good job of taking advantage of the Pelicans lack of depth. New Orleans starting five was forced to play an average of 40.5 minutes in the last game, and even with the group scoring 103 points, this incredible total wasn’t able to overcome Golden State’s scoring prowess.

The reserve’s lack of shooting, and at times hesitancy to just shoot the basketball, has been puzzling. Darius Miller and Ian Clark, the Pelicans two spark plugs off the bench, combined to shoot just 2/5 in 23 minutes. Unfortunately, this put more pressure on other guys. Solomon Hill shot a dreadful 1/6, including an ugly looking fade away and three three-point attempts — something that has never been a staple of his diet.

“Now make like a tree, and get out of here.”

The Pelicans are locked in a sleeper hold, and allowing themselves to be fully enveloped by the darkness wouldn’t be all that unforgivable given their series of performances to get this point. However, if they can just extend their hand out a little bit, they should be able to find their sixth man waiting to tag in.

“Everybody Get Your Roll On”

The Pelicans were buffered by a raucous home crowd in Round 1 against the Portland Trail Blazers, and they went on to put forth a dominant effort. Winning Game 3 at home wasn’t enough, as the Pelicans grabbed the sweep, getting to the line an unfathomable 39 times in Game 4.

While the results have been radically different in this series thus far, the favorable statistics were there in Tuesday’s loss. Rajon Rondo exploded to the tune of 22/12/7/5, Anthony Davis swatted Steph Curry twice in a span of four minutes, E’Twaun Moore chased Klay all night long, while Niko went mouth to mouth with Draymond Green.

Yet, while Jrue Holiday played like an All-Star on paper at 24/8/8, his swagger evidenced in the previous playoff series hasn’t been there. Not for him, not for his team. Perhaps his finger pointing, a few AD roars and other enviable spectacles, will be back on display inside The Blender on Friday night.

The Smoothie King Center was alive against the Trail Blazers, and the Pelicans will need every bit of that type of energy to swing Lady Momentum’s gaze.

The Sixth Man

Anthony Davis can expect double and triple teams as he did in Game 2, but this time when he kicks it out to a teammate on the three-point line, the successful parties will hear thunderous approval as shots find the net.

Steph Curry and the Golden State Warriors got used to feeding off their home crowd, but this time when Draymond Green leg wrestles around on the floor with Anthony Davis, he’ll be booed voraciously.

The officials, who have been shy with their whistles in New Orleans’ direction, have awarded the Pelicans a meager 20 total foul shots in their first two matchups. During the regular season, the Pelicans averaged over 20 attempts from the charity stripe.

This time, though, when a referee misses AD being bear tackled, he’ll be met with boos so loud that even his conscience will call for earmuffs.

The Pelicans have given the sports fans of New Orleans everything they could have hoped for in the final weeks of the season and at the start of these playoffs. Now, it is up to those fans to lift them up off the mat, wipe off the blood and throw them back in the ring.

To the outside eye, the New Orleans Pelicans cannot defeat the Golden State Warriors. The Warriors are too athletic, too long, too talented, and too smart. But the Pelicans’ fans know better.

  • They know about the adversity their team has faced all season long.
  • They know what feels like to have promise for the first time, only to see it stripped away.
  • They know how it feels to see your favorite team threatened to dissolve on a daily basis.
  • They have seen a team destined to fail, refuse to lose.

The Smoothie King Center is going to explode on Friday night. The noise and the atmosphere will be the biggest and the baddest in Pelicans franchise history. And my instincts tell me that the Pelicans are about to swing at and cut the mighty Ivan Drago.

Geaux Pels!

What: New Orleans Pelicans vs Golden State Warriors

Where: Smoothie King Center

When: May 4, 2018, 7:00 pm Central

How: ESPN, 99.5 FM WRNO