The Golden State Warriors vs. New Orleans Pelicans series starts tonight, kicking off the Western Conference Semi-Finals. The dominating headlines of this series focus on players who aren’t playing. For the Pelicans, DeMarcus Cousins‘ season is over with an Achilles injury. Stephen Curry, who is recovering from a Grade 2 MCL sprain, is questionable for Game 1.
With Cousins out for the series and Curry gone possibly until Game 3, let’s focus on who actually will be playing. As the defending champs, Golden State being favored isn’t a shocker. However, the Pelicans have a great chance of winning this series. They should at least push the Warriors to a competitive six or seven games.
The Intrigue of the Golden State Warriors vs. New Orleans Pelicans Series
Anthony Davis, the Pelicans’ superstar, has raised his game this post-season. Davis is averaging 33 points and 12 rebounds per game through this post-season. The Warriors have no answer for Davis, who is the best big man in the league. Even Draymond Green, the reigning Defensive Player of the Year, isn’t a good match-up to guard Davis. At 6’7″, Green is usually able to defend bigger players. The problem is that Davis’ many skills allow him to take advantage of the height difference. Davis is 6’10” compared to Green’s 6’7″ and Davis is 20 pounds heavier than Green.
Just how the Warriors have no real way to stop Davis, the Pelicans have no real defender to guard Kevin Durant. Without Curry, the Warriors’ offense runs through Durant, and it has paid off. Durant is averaging 28.2 points per game so far in the playoffs. New Orleans has nobody with the size or quickness to guard Durant, who’s listed at 6’9″ but says he is actually a seven-footer. The Pelicans start E’Twaun Moore at small forward and he’s only 6’4″. A big like Davis has the height to guard Durant, but not the quickness. But if they place Jrue Holiday or Rajon Rondo on Durant, then when Curry returns, the Pelicans will have nobody to guard him.
With two essentially unstoppable forces on both teams in Davis and Durant, this series will come down to backcourt play. Holiday and “Playoff Rondo” will match up with Klay Thompson and Curry when he returns. Thompson and Curry are the best backcourt in the league and maybe of all time. But Holiday and Rondo just played a great backcourt in Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum last series. Lillard, who’s Portland’s best player, averaged four turnovers a game, less than 20 points, and shot 35 percent from the floor. If Curry or Thompson are slowed down like that in this series, the Pelicans’ chance of upsetting Golden State increase greatly.
Though Golden State has more firepower with four All-Stars on their team, New Orléans has talent on its roster as well. The Pelicans need players like Holiday, Nikola Mirotic, and Rondo to continue to help Davis on the offensive end. Holiday is averaging 27.8 points per game and Mirotic is averaging 18.3. Rondo, meanwhile, leads all players in the playoffs with 13.3 assists per game. The Warriors will most likely win this series, but it should go six or seven games and be very exciting to watch.
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