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Pelicans-Warriors Game 4 Preview: Johnny Chan

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Published: April 25, 2015

“Don’t count your chickens before they’ve hatched”

-Someone, somewhere, probably talking about a Pelicans game

I got lost in the moment on Thursday night. I was bedazzled. The Pelicans were up 20 points against the best team in the NBA. The defense looked great. The offense looked great. The New Orleans basketball scene was resurrecting before our eyes. But then Steph Curry happened. The best team in the NBA happened. Inexperienced players happened. The Pelicans started playing what equated to “prevent” offense. We died a slow death without anesthetic, and it was undeniably painful.

I won’t pretend I wasn’t extremely disappointed by Game 3—it was crushing—but the lessons that the Pelicans players/staff learned in that game will probably be of immense value. Not that this kind of collapse hasn’t happened to us before, because it has—but this was going to be a huge playoff victory, a historical imprint that we were going to look back on years from now. While the Pelicans were swishing wine around in their mouths, the Warriors snuck in and stole the bottle.

If it wasn’t clear after Game 2, the series is already over; frankly, the Pelicans never really had a chance of beating them in the series—it was just a matter of how many games it would take the Warriors. But there is valor in the fight, and the Pelicans still have time for a victory.

In Rounders (clip below), Mike McDermott reminisces about a time he sat with one of the greatest poker players in the world, Johnny Chan, someone he would seemingly have no business playing cards with.. and he beats him.

**Warning: explicit language/cool moment with John Turturro**

“I sat with the best in the world.. and I won.”

 

How to Win

1. More transition, please. The Warriors defense is infinitely harder to crack when they can get set. The Pelicans enjoyed success attacking the Warriors off of misses/turnovers at the beginning of Game 3, and the transition buckets injected the crowd with amazing energy.

Conversely, account for Golden State in transition immediately. Get back in position. Locate the shooters. Stop the ball.

2. Grab a freaking defensive rebound. The Warriors were the 2nd most efficient offense in the NBA, but it wasn’t because they were known for their offensive rebounds (they ranked 21st in OReb Rate). They just force you to extend your defense, move the ball extremely well, and make an absurd amount of shots. 22 offensive rebounds is inexcusable and a large reason why the Pelicans dropped game 3.

3.  Keep it close vs. the Golden State starters. They have the best starting unit in the NBA and our starters are unlikely to outscore them.  If Jrue Holiday can play off the bench, you can trust the bench to beat their bench. Jrue, Cole, and Ryno were ~+15 in Game 3. The bench can win in the gaps, but it’s up to the Pelicans starters to play theirs as close as they can to a draw.

This is a big game–not because we can win the series, not because we have to validate local expectations, and not because we have to prove anything to the national media.  This is a big game because this is an opportunity to sit with the best in the world and beat them. The Pelicans don’t need to win the pot.. they just need to win a hand.

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