Things to Watch in the Pels-Warriors Series

Published: April 26, 2018
  1. Jrue Holiday at the rim
    • Jrue is playing at the highest level of his career, mainly because of his newfound ability to finish at the rim. This can be attributed to multiple things: cleaning up his handle, more space to operate, an increased focus on finishing with his left hand, and an increased use of his strength to create separation.
    • Against the Blazers, Jrue shot 78.4% at the rim on close to 9 attempts per game. This is a much higher efficiency than he has ever registered during a season, but again, this is also easily the most aggressive and effective Jrue has been on offense here.
    • Finishing at the rim vs. the Warriors will be a tougher task, because the team has so much overall length. The Warriors lead the league in blocked shots by a significant margin and are stacked with perimeter length and mobility.  Basically, Jrue is going to be finishing against guys no shorter than 6’6 unless Steph is back.  Jrue can still be successful, but it will be a taller order and how he fares here is instrumental to the success of the Pelicans.
  2. Defensive adjustments
    • The Pelicans spent the Blazers series trapping Damian Lillard and putting the ball in the hands of poor playmakers and living with outside shots from guys besides Lillard and CJ.
    • This strategy will likely go away versus Durant, who is simply too long to trap. Durant can throw over the top of the defense in a way that Lillard could not, and the Warriors are blessed with playmaking at multiple positions in a way that the Blazers were not.
    • Without Steph, however, defending the Warriors is easier, albeit still very, very difficult. Without Steph, the defense doesn’t have to extend as far at the point of attack, which puts other players in a better position to help.  However, the Warriors do an excellent job of getting Klay moving off the ball, and that requires simultaneous tracking of the ball and a deadly shooter.
    • One thing that I think is key to defending the Warriors: don’t double Draymond on the ball. The Warriors are too loaded elsewhere to worry about Draymond the scorer.  Much like the Pelicans lived with certain Blazers shots, I think it’s imperative that they allow Draymond to be a scorer.  His natural instinct is to create for others and he succeeds at making the right passes.  Let him beat you 1 v 1 if he chooses to attack that way.
  3. Hiding Rondo
    • Rondo’s lack of height/bulk can manifest in several sets of problems versus the Warriors:
      • An inability to switch onto bigger players, resulting in less defensive flexibility
      • An inability to defend bigger players in the post, forcing help from other Pelicans
      • An inability or unwillingness to fight through screens, which are frequent and effectively used by the Warriors
  1. Davis handling Green’s physicality
    • Draymond Green is unequivocally a top 5 defender in the NBA, possessing the strength, willingness, and intangibles to defend positions 1-5.
    • Last playoff series, Davis absolutely dominated Draymond, which is a testament to Davis’s offensive firepower. In the last 2 seasons (6 games) vs. the Warriors, Davis has averaged 34 points on 60% shooting.  However, Davis sometimes allowed the physicality of the Blazers series to get him out of his game, and this is something that he must avoid versus someone like Draymond, who is both an excellent defender and excellent at getting into the heads of his opponents.
    • The Warriors have already mentioned how Davis was free for tons of lobs in the Blazers series.  I expect plenty of bumps on Davis’s rolls from 3rd defenders to keep him from generating easy buckets.  This focused attention means that other Pelicans must maintain proper spacing to force the Warriors into tougher help decisions and that they must burn the Warriors for cheating on Davis rolls.

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