PBT First-Round Playoff Previews: Golden State Warriors vs. New Orleans Pelicans

6 Comments

SEASON RECORDS

Golden State Warriors: 67-15

New Orleans Pelicans: 45-37

KEY INJURIES

Golden State Warriors: none

New Orleans Pelicans: none

OFFENSE/DEFENSE RANKINGS (points per 100 possession)

Golden State Warriors: Offense 109.7 (4th in NBA), Defense 98.2 (1st in NBA)

New Orleans Pelicans: Offense 105.4 (5th in NBA), Defense 104.7 (16th in NBA)

THREE KEYS TO THE SERIES

1) How much does end-of-regular-season intensity matter in the first round of the playoffs?

The Warriors are clearly the better team. They just completed one of the best-ever regular seasons, and they project to get way better once they pare down their playoff rotation.

But they will go three weeks between clinching the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference and beginning the postseason. Sure, they went 7-2 – including winning their last four – in that span, but it’s not easy to immediately regain the intensity they showed earlier in the season.

The Pelicans, on the other hand, have been fighting for weeks to make the playoffs. They’ve won 8-of-11, including a big win over Golden State.

The Warriors are better (and even had a better record in the final stretch), but the Pelicans have been in playoff mode, and Golden State is just getting there. Plus, Anthony Davis and New Orleans has the extra motivation of a perceived Warriors diss.

All that matters.

Enough to swing the series? Doubtful. But maybe enough to swing a game or two, especially early.

2) Can the Warriors maintain their 3-point rhythm?

The Warriors’ combination of 3-point efficiency (39.8 percent) and volume (27.0 attempts per game) is unmatched in NBA history. Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson gun away from beyond the arc, and several other key role players – Draymond Green, Harrison Barnes, Andre Iguodala, Shaun Livingston – are proficient for their positions.

But New Orleans might present a problem.

The Pelicans excel at both preventing 3-point attempts and forcing misses on the ones that go up. If they’re going to have a chance this series, they have to limit Golden State’s 3s.

Of course, that still might not be enough. The Warriors use their outside shooting to create space inside the arc. As well as New Orleans has defended the 3, its commitment to the perimeter has created holes inside.

Still, mucking up Golden State’s preferred style has to be a starting point for New Orleans.

3) What can Anthony Davis do?

For a moment, forget about which team will win the series. This is Anthony Davis’ playoff debut – and that’s awesome.

Davis is a legitimate MVP candidate, an all-around big man unlike anyone since Hakeem Olajuwon. As much credit as Russell Westbrook got for dragging the Thunder deep into the playoff race, Davis meant more to the Pelicans than Westbrook did to Oklahoma City.

Don’t miss the chance to watch Davis adapt to playoff competition. Everything about his career so far suggests he’ll rise to the occasion.

PREDICTION

The Warriors have been the NBA’s best team all season, and they’re primed for a deep playoff run. But New Orleans has played hungrier lately, and I think that shows early.

I doubt the Pelicans can win this series, though.

The Warriors have the ability to put away New Orleans quickly if they’re committed to it. If they’re pushed, they’ll definitely respond before its too late.

Warriors in 6.