BIG EASY BELIEVER’S Pelicans vs. Warriors Playoff Preview


As of today the media, the fans, the NBA and the rest of the world have all collectively counted the New Orleans Pelicans out of the first round.

They have good reason too as well. The Warriors are currently tied for the 3rd greatest regular season record in NBA history, they have a +10.1 point differential while the 2nd best point differential is +6.6.

They are playing at one of the fastest paces in NBA history, and they are more lineup dynamic then any team the league has ever seen.

There’s more.

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The Warriors currently have one MVP candidate, one 6th Man of the Year candidate, two Defensive Player of the Year candidates, two Most Improved Player candidates, one Coach of the Year candidate.

To summarize, they’re the greatest team in NBA history that Michael Jordan didn’t play for.

The Warriors are the best team in the league, but the Pelicans are the most UNPREDICTABLE team in the league.

Statistically the Warriors are the clear favorite, but sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good, and the Pelicans just might pull of something amazing if enough things go right.

Jan 18, 2014; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Pelicans shooting guard Eric Gordon (10) shoots over Golden State Warriors shooting guard Klay Thompson (11) and power forward David Lee (10) during the second half of a game at the New Orleans Arena. The Warriors defeated the Pelicans 97-87. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

This season the Pelicans have beat the Spurs, Hawks, Warriors, Cavaliers, Rockets, Clippers, and Grizzlies while losing to the 76ers, Nuggets, Kings, Magic, Jazz, Hornets, and Knicks.

No one on earth can explain why the Pelicans have been so sporadic, it’s a mystery that has somehow led to a playoff berth, and one the Pelicans are poised to take advantage of.

Think about it, if you had to pick one roster to beat the best team in the league you wouldn’t pick the 2nd best, you would pick the most UNPREDICTABLE.

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You want the Pelicans to lose? tell them they are the better team, make them feel complacent and secure, give them confidence.

You want the Pelicans to win? don’t pay them any attention, assume they have no shot, let them get angry and give them something to prove.

It’s not all a gamble though, in addition to their admirable underdog mentality they also have some favorable match-ups. Here’s the rotation the Pelicans should run against Golden State.

PG – Jrue Holiday

SG – Eric Gordon

SF – Quincy Pondexter

PF – Anthony Davis

C – Omer Asik

6th Tyreke Evans

7th Ryan Anderson

8th Norris Cole

9th Dante Cunningham

Now a lot of people believe Tyreke should still retain the starting PG role, but Jrue Holiday’s defense makes him irreplaceable against Steph Curry.

The Warriors love anything which gets Steph or Klay Thompson open for three. They run elevator-door plays, create switches, and abuse off-ball screens to send Curry and Thompson out behind the arc.

Dec 4, 2014; Oakland, CA, USA; Golden State Warriors guard Klay Thompson (11) drives in against New Orleans Pelicans forward Anthony Davis (23) during the first quarter at Oracle Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Tyreke Evans trying to chase these guys all game would be a disaster, his atrociously bad off-ball defense is a treat for this advanced Warriors offense.

Jrue Holiday on the other hand is an entirely different creature. Jrue is a remarkable defensive PG and he is the perfect player to pit against Steph Curry.

Jrue is 6’4″ with muscle to spare and will be able to bother Curry physically, while playing passing lanes and closing out on him, limiting his three-point opportunities. Steph has a tendency to get a little turnover-happy, and Jrue has a tendency to take advantage of that.

Starting Jrue also allows the Pelicans to put Quincy Pondexter on Klay Thompson. Klay takes advantage of shorter SGs who are unable to handle his size and range, like Curry he is an ordeal to chase off-ball, and he can pull up from anywhere past the half court line.

This leaves Eric Gordon to defend Harrison Barnes, which would be a problem if Barnes had any way to create his own shot.

He relies on teams paying all their defensive attention on Curry and Thompson, while he drifts out and feeds on whatever is left.

Putting 6’3″ Eric Gordon on him will encourage Barnes to take bad shots, and force the issue on offense which is exactly what the Pelicans want.

The odds of Barnes single-handedly winning a game by posting up Eric Gordon are a lot lower than the odds of Curry or Thompson catching Tyreke asleep on defense.

In addition, Anthony Davis will be able to roam to his hearts desire. Davis is at his best playing a “free safety” roll on defense, disrupting passing lanes and wrecking havoc by trapping perimeter players.

Draymond Green is an amazing and versatile player, but he isn’t a scorer. Davis will be able to pay a conservative amount of attention to Draymond while focusing on disrupting the rest of the Warriors offense.

Tyreke off the bench will be a huge advantage as well. Him and Anderson can run pick-and-pops all night, exhausting Marreese Speights and frustrating whichever bench player has to try to keep Tyreke out of the paint.

Running a 4 out 1 in offense off the bench with Anderson on the perimeter will allow Tyreke to penetrate much more effectively then when he was stuck with Omer Asik clogging the lane.

Dec 4, 2014; Oakland, CA, USA; Golden State Warriors guard Klay Thompson (11) forces a jump ball as New Orleans Pelicans forward Tyreke Evans (1) drives in between Thompson and forward Draymond Green (23) during the third quarter at Oracle Arena. The Golden State Warriors defeated the New Orleans Pelicans 112-85. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Tyreke should also guard Andre Igoudala. It makes sense to put your most liable defender on their opposing teams playmaker as long as they aren’t a scorer.

Igoudala will find himself open but Cole and Cunningham will be able to close out on Shaun Livingston and Leandro Barbosa leaving Igoudala frustrated.

Igoudala is a facilitator, when he can’t find open teammates he is at a disadvantage averaging only 7.8 points a game. It’s more than likely the Rockets will try a similar approach with Rajon Rondo, are dare him to try to score, while taking away his passing options.

This rotation will allow the Pelicans to put their best defenders on Curry, Thompson, Livingston and Bogut, while encouraging Barnes, Draymond and Iggy to try to handle the scoring load.

The Warriors usually combat this approach by going small and out running their opponent, but Anthony Davis is far too athletic on defense, and has too much size for the Warriors on offense.

Another important factor is that the Pelicans will have the best player in the series. Davis finished this season as the only player outside of Wilt Chamberlain, Lebron James and Micheal Jordan to have a 30+ PER season, and brings more on the defensive end then Curry can even dream of.

Historically having the best player is a huge advantage, and the Warriors will have to choose between 6’7″ Draymond Green or David Lee to try to defend him.

The Warriors also have enjoyed a massive advantage at home this season. Their arena is being called the “Roaracle” for its rabid fan support.

On the other hand, anyone who watched the Pelicans final game against the Spurs knows that NOLA’s fan base has been absolutely savage this season and has fiercely supported their Pelicans, especially since their post all-star break tear.

Apr 15, 2015; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Pelicans head coach Monty Williams (C) celebrates with guard Eric Gordon (10) after defeating the San Antonio Spurs at the Smoothie King Center.The Pelicans won 108-103 to earn the eight seed in the Western Conference Playoffs. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Almost every statistical and analytical NBA mind has decided the Warriors will sweep the Pelicans. Every historical situation has yielded the same results and it’s more than likely the Warriors wrap this thing up before Tyreke Evans can yell “iso”.

On the other hand Anthony Davis has never been in the playoffs and the Pelicans are the most confusing team in North America.

If Davis decides to average 35-12, if Jrue and Pondexter give Curry and Thompson nightmares, if Harrison Barnes starts to think he’s Kobe Bryant, or if the Warriors simply run out of gas the Pelicans might just make some history.

It makes sense for the Pelicans too lose, but the Pelicans have never really made much sense……

Next: NBA Playoffs: 5 Pelicans Keys Against the Warriors