Game On: New Orleans Pelicans at Golden State Warriors, Game 2

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Published: April 20, 2015

Two days after an inspiring comeback fell just a little short in the form of a 106-99 loss, the Pelicans return to Oracle Arena for Game 2 of their best-of-seven series against the Warriors. After a rough first quarter on Saturday, New Orleans shook their playoff jitters and played Golden State close to even in the second and third quarters, then beat them handily in the fourth. While the team is trending upward, their opponent is now 40-2 at home in the regular season and post season combined, so heading back home with the series tied at one game a piece would be a very impressive feat. Fortunately, the Pelicans seemed to learn a thing or two from their first game that should help them in their big game tonight.

First things first – it is no secret that Omer Asik struggled on Saturday. As big of a factor as Asik has been defensively for the Pelicans this season, he simply does not match up well against this Warriors team. In fact, James Grayson had a great post yesterday which reviewed some of his struggles in addition to some other key insights from Game 1. There is certainly a place for Asik in this series, but it may be in the Pelicans’ best interest to give the Davis-Anderson front court more time together in Game 2 (the combo which propelled their 4th quarter comeback). Despite Anderson’s recent struggles, his mere presence on the court gives Davis so much more space to operate offensively, and there isn’t really a player for Golden State who is big enough to give AD a ton of trouble on the defensive end.

Of course, this strategy is not without risk. Apart from trading defense for offense, Asik is also a strong rebounder, and if you’re going to reduce his minutes, you’ll have to make up that production somewhere else. New Orleans basically matched Golden State on the glass in Game 1 (and that includes a 9-rebound game from Quincy Pondexter), and they run the risk of falling behind by giving Asik a lesser role. To be clear, the Pelicans likely will not take him out of the starting lineup, if for no other reason than seeing how he reacted in Houston when he was replaced by Dwight Howard.

Tyreke Evans will be another big key as tip-off approaches. He is currently listed as a game-time decision, but Evans will likely no whether or not he can play as soon as he tests out his knee today. While Evans is certainly a major part of this Pelicans team and they are unequivocally worse off without him, Evans tends to struggle against teams with great rim protectors (such as the Warriors’ Andrew Bogut), so being without him for a game may not be quite as harmful as it would be against some of the other teams in the league. Regardless, if Evans cannot go, Norris Cole will likely be the biggest benefactor, as Holiday still appears to be on a minutes restriction hovering around 25 minutes. Cole is an upgrade from Evans on the defensive end, but can he create enough open looks for his teammates on the offensive end to keep this game close?

Quincy Pondexter and Eric Gordon combined to go 7-14 from 3-point range in Game 1, and that sharp shooting will have to continue for the Pelicans to hang with the Splash Brothers. Curry had a very pedestrian game from long range a couple days ago, and Thompson struggled when not shooting 3s (3-6 from long range, 6-17 overall), two trends which are unlikely to continue. On the defensive end, Pondexter fared pretty decently when matched up against Curry, so that could be a match-up that Coach Monty Williams goes to more frequently in Game 2. Of course, doing so is a lot easier when your point guard is 6’7″ and can defend multiple positions – an under-emphasized benefit of having Tyreke in the lineup – so his health may dictate how often the Pelicans can throw wing defenders at Curry.

How Ryan Anderson is used while he is on the court will be a major factor in tonight’s game. Anderson has struggled all season on the road, but it is clear how much the Warriors fear his ability to space the floor when he is playing.  If he can make up a decent amount of the rebounding void left vacant when Asik leaves the game and stick towards 3-point shooting over post-ups and his mid-range fall-away jumpers that haven’t really been close lately (unless it’s to avoid a shot clock violation), the Pelicans’ offense will be much more dangerous.

Feel free to add in some of your own keys to the game in the comments below! Also, don’t forget that all are encouraged to catch the game at Tracey’s for our second watch party of the postseason. Head to Tracey’s in the Garden District for every road Pelicans playoff game, and you’re pretty much guaranteed to find other passionate Pelicans fans surrounding you.

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