Game On: Pelicans v. Warriors

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Published: April 7, 2015

When our own Michael McNamara said that “If Pelicans (and Their MVP) Want Playoffs, They Are Going to Have to Earn It,” this is one of the games circled. After being 3.5 games out of the playoffs just a short while ago, the New Orleans Pelicans (41-35) went on a four game winning streak (while the Oklahoma City Thunder lost five of six), in order to propel the Pelicans right back into the thick of the playoff chase. The team is only half a game out of the playoffs, but the final six games of the season are difficult. While many ask if the Pelicans will get a break when taking on the Golden State Warriors (63-14), it would be wise not to expect any breaks coming the Pelicans way (how many have they actually gotten this season anyway?). The Pelicans will need to beat the best teams when it matters the most, at full capacity.

The Warriors won’t be resting everybody (or anybody) as head coach Steve Kerr says “We’ve got to get better, we’ve got to keep improving. We’ve got five games to get better and then we should try to get better with every playoff game as well.” He told ESPN reporter Marc Stein something similar. This Warriors team, that just had a 12-game winning streak (where they outscored opponents by 15.2 points per game) snapped by the San Antonio Spurs, is not going to let up on the Pelicans in a potential first round matchup.

The Pelicans have lost all three games against the Warriors this season, allowing the Warriors to score 117.3 points per game. But the last contest saw the Pelicans have to piece a rag-tag frontcourt together, since Anthony Davis, Omer Asik, and Ryan Anderson were all out of the game.  The only game the two teams played in New Orleans was a 128-122 overtime win by the Warriors, their 16th in a row at that point, that required the Steph Curry to provide some of his late game heroics.

ESPN has enjoyed putting a stat on it’s website saying that the Pelicans have a 24% (or 23.9% to exact) chance of making the playoffs. That is because New Orleans isn’t expected to win games like these. Let’s see if the Pelicans can prove them wrong.

Here are the Keys to the Game:

  • Turnovers: Always for this team. But the Warriors games highlight this facet. In the two blowout losses, the Pelicansa had 37 turnovers to the Warriors 19. In the overtime loss at home, the Pelicans won the turnover battle 19-13. If the Pelicans can keep the turnovers down (in particular the live ball turnovers), they can stay in the game.
  • Points in the paint: The Pelicans have been one of the best teams in the paint this season, but were manhandled in their two blowout losses against the Warriors, being outscored 120-78. In the overtime loss, the Pelicans outscored the Warriors 56-52. The Pelicans have given up a lot of shots in the paint all season, but having Asik and Davis back in this game should definitely help, the team can’t allow the Warriors to get easy buckets inside to jumpstart their drive and kick game.
  • Fastbreak Points: This was another stat the Pelicans got eviscerated in in their two blowout losses. The Pels were outscored 72-19 in fastbreak points in the two games at Oakland. That was cut to 19-18 in the game in New Orleans. The Warriors are a fantastic team in the half-court, but they are downright lethal in the open court. If the Pels let the Warriors make this a 94 foot game, this can get ugly.

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