Easy Adjustments the Pelicans Can Make To Win Game 3

Published: April 23, 2015

With their first round series shifting homeward the New Orleans Pelicans find themselves in a must-win situation. Yes, no one expected them to win this matchup but getting swept would put a slight dent on an otherwise very good season. And getting knocked out of the playoffs while at home is something no fan wants to see.

The good thing is the Pelicans have been exceptionally competitive in games 1 and 2, mounting a strong comeback in the opener and only falling late in the 4th quarter of the sequel. There has been a lot of good basketball played by this young team and it may only take a few tweaks to the gameplan to send this series back to the bay area. So let’s jump into what the Pelicans can do.

Run a Smart Franchise

Anthony Davis is the franchise player. He’s been big for the Pelicans in the first two games. If the Pelicans want to have any chance of extending their playoff run it’s going to take Anthony Davis being on the court a lot. It’s why he played 45 minutes in game 2.

But the flipside of that is he looked gassed at the end of the game. Warriors coach Steve Kerr is throwing everything he has at Davis in order to tire him out. In addition to his primary defender in Draymond Green the Warriors at sending Andrew Bogut at him as well as switching guys like Klay Thompson to give Davis different looks. On top of the physicality he’s facing—and Davis prefers to avoid banging bodies on the block—it’s mentally taxing trying to figure out what to do.

However there seems no sign that his minutes will decrease.

“I talked about managing minutes, but the last time I checked this is the playoffs,” Williams said. “We’ve got the rest of the summer to rest; we’re trying to win games. He’s our best player and if I need to play him 48 minutes I’ll play him 48 minutes.”

It’s a coach’s quandary. You need Davis on the court to have a chance at winning but he’s being run into the ground and playing ineffectually.

The Pelicans need to use Davis as a decoy more early on. Give him a touch early on in the possession, let the defense react to that, then get the ball out of his hands. If Davis is used as a decoy early on, he’ll have much more energy late in games to be impactful.

It’s weird to type this given I’ve been shouting all season long that Davis needs to be the focal point of the Pelicans’ offense; that he needs more touches. Late in games, yes, that what the Pelicans should do. But save it till then. Davis had a USG% of 27.8% in the regular season and that’s risen to 32.1% in the playoffs. If he’s exhausted and commanding that much of the Pelicans offense they will not be able to beat Golden State. Save him early, beat them late.

Control the Pace and Reset the Offense

Golden State plays with the fastest pace in the league; the Pelicans with the 27th slowest. New Orleans won’t win by playing at the Warriors’ pace. They need to slow it down, play measured offense, and work the clock to create the best look possible. This ties in with keeping Davis fresh as well, and keeps Golden State from scoring points in quick bunches. When transition opportunities present themselves go for it. But the Pelicans can’t take bad shots early in the shot clock.

After grabbing an offensive rebound the Pelicans like to immediately go back up with another shot. Normally these are pretty high percentage plays however the Pelicans have not been converting at the league average this series. The Warriors were one of the top teams in the league at blocking shots. With guys like Green and Bogut patrolling down low getting a put back shot becomes much, much harder. The Pelicans need to kick the ball back out and reset their offense after grabbing a board. It’s a brand new 24 seconds. Use it. Evans and Asik, I’m looking at you both.

Asik and Destroy. Early. Sort Of.

No, he doesn’t need to be the focal point of the offense. Yes, you can reduce his minutes some this game. But Asik is still important to the Pelicans’ playoff chances. The problem is the Warriors are leaving him alone entirely and forcing the Pelicans to play 4 on 5 on the offensive end.

The Pelicans cannot let Golden State do that this game. Get Asik a few early baskets to keep the defense honest. It helps spacing for the Pelicans and you can go away from him after that. Now it’s easier said than done getting Asik good looks with how quickly the Warriors rotate on defense, but it’s possible.

Use Asik to set on ball screens. It’s much harder to ignore him when he’s involved in the play. Let him roll to the basket. With the defensive focus they’ve put on Davis, Asik should have some room to work. Once the Warriors adjust to take that away it’ll free up the rest of the team; allow Davis to rest a bit, avoid some of the physicality and act as an outlet with his jumper.

It’s not going to be easy, but the Pelicans have played competatively in this series. All it takes is a little bit more to grab a win or two at home. Slow the pace down to save Davis early on and then, in the 4th quarter, when the Pelicans need Davis the most you let him unless all hell.

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