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2018 Playoffs Preview: For New Orleans Pelicans, it’s simple: Win or go home

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Can Anthony Davis lead the Pels to an upset of the Golden State Warriors inside the Oracle?

NBA: Playoffs-Portland Trail Blazers at New Orleans Pelicans Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

The New Orleans Pelicans 2017-18 season is on life support. With the Golden State Warriors ahead three games to one, another loss in this Western Conference semifinals would officially eliminate New Orleans from postseason play.

As Head Coach Alvin Gentry said to postgame media following Game 4’s 118-92 defeat, getting a win inside Oracle is going to be a “monumental task.”

He’s absolutely spot on.

Since the Warriors demolition of the Pelicans began in their series three years ago in Oakland, they’ve registered a dominant 34-5 record at home in postseason action, with three of those losses coming at the hands of LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers.

The odds are far from good of extending this series, but honestly, every single fan should be fine with the result from Game 5 — regardless of the outcome. New Orleans has been treated to a special season by a professional sports team, and it didn’t involve gridirons or goal posts. The Pelicans, who were consistently picked to finish outside of the playoffs prior to the start of preseason to practically the final week of the regular season, far exceeded all expectations and will head into an offseason confident in the fact that the franchise in on the right track for the first time in years.

Of course, there will be plenty long summer days to throw accolades around so let’s focus on the game at hand, because who knows, New Orleans has proven to be a resilient team for months and they might have one more surprise in store.

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

After throttling the Warriors in Game 3, Steve Kerr made all the right changes: starting the fabled Death lineup, not giving any Pelicans — including the poor outside shooters — any airspace and utilizing Quinn Cook off their bench. Playoff series are all about adjustments and with each game considered its own entity, the New Orleans coaching staff could unearth a couple of remedies. However, whatever they do decipher, the strategy is going to require lots and lots of points. On a regular day, you’re not going to beat Golden State without scoring 115 to 120 points at a minimum, especially with MVP-Kevin Durant showing up on Sunday (38 points, nine rebounds, five assists)!

Three Keys to Victory

  • Anthony Davis has to erupt for a monster performance. When he’s gone for 40 points or more on the season, the Pelicans have not lost, posting a sparkling 8-0 record. At the very least, AD needs to be efficient. Anytime he’s failed to eclipse a 50% field goal percentage, New Orleans didn't fare well as evidenced by a 12-18 record.
  • Rajon Rondo needs to be a maestro. In games in which he hit or surpassed the 10-assist plateau, New Orleans won 17 out of 22 meetings, including a 4-2 record here in the postseason. Easy baskets have been the name of the game for the Pelicans so Rondo must weave through traffic, find the passing lanes and help lead his teammates score a whole lot of points.
  • Nikola Mirotic needs to knock down at least a few three-pointers. It’s no secret that the Pelicans rely heavily on points in the paint, but unless they force the Warriors to stay close to shooters on the perimeter, it’ll make for tough sledding for Davis in the paint and Jrue Holiday of getting to the rim on his drives. One person who can immediately help spread out Golden State’s defense is Mirotic. When he’s knocked down at least a couple of treys, New Orleans has proven nearly unbeatable, winning 21 of 25 games in both the regular season and playoffs.

Geaux Pels!

What: New Orleans Pelicans at Golden State Warriors

Where: Oracle

When: May 8, 2018, 9:30 pm Central

How: TNT, 99.5 FM WRNO