The New Orleans Pelicans are into the playoffs for the first time since the Crescent City adopted its new moniker.
With a 108-103 playoff-clinching victory against the Spurs on Wednesday night, the Pelicans locked themselves into a difficult playoff matchup against the Golden State Warriors.
Thus far, the Warriors have looked like the league's best team in a runaway race. Averaging double-digits wins in every game and going 67-15 in fashionable style, Golden State cannot stop awing.
Against New Orleans, Golden State has taken three of four games, with wins coming in dominant displays. The Pelicans were simply outshot in the losses, which might not come as a particularly surprising analysis. However, in those matches, there was more than the eye can divulge from a final score.
Reason to hope for Nola
First, Anthony Davis is 1-1 against the Warriors. That's right, the New Orleans Pelicans superstar and league's heir to the throne only played in two of the four games. And when he played, he was spectacular.
Davis scored 29 and 30 points in the two games, averaging 12.5 rebounds against the undersized Warriors. He also hit some clutch free throws to seal the crucial April 7 game.
With an undersized Draymond Green likely to be covering him, Davis will have some space up top to work in the upcoming series. Green is strong and can guard all five positions (a skill that might earn him Defensive Player of the Year) but he is 6 foot 7 inches. Advantage Davis.
Jrue Holiday also only played in two of the four games against the Warriors. Although the Pelicans lost both, Holiday boasted formidable numbers against one of the league's best defenses. Holiday scored 30 in the home leg while dishing to nine baskets.
Nobody expects the Pelicans to win, except the Pelicans. Head Coach Monty Williams, in a postgame locker room huddle told his players, "We're not done yet."
The Pelicans have reason to be confident, though, and are not just being quixotic preparing for wins. New Orleans has a blank injury report for the first time since the opening weeks of the year, and is facing a team who they match up well against.
Anthony Davis has a size advantage against Green, and can blur by Andrew Bogut if the Warriors for some reason wanted to try that suicidal plan. The Brow will get his points for sure.
However, Jrue Holiday might also be the best point guard in the league to try (emphasize try) to stop Steph Curry. Holiday is widely acknowledged as one of the league's best perimeter defenders as a point guard but he also has amazing length. The 6'4 guard has a 6'7 wingspan and is sound enough to stay in front of Curry. Even if Curry creates space, Holiday will be able to affect the shot.
Klay Thompson will score this series. Guarding him will either be Eric Gordon or Tyreke Evans, both undersized and both poor defenders. Simply put, Thompson will get open shots and Thompson will make open shots.
The war at center is evenly matched. Bogut is a better player than Asik, but the two bigs will be clashing throughout the series like two fighters in a ring. Both big bodies, large bruises are expected.
Luckily for Asik, Bogut does not have much of a jump shot, so Asik's vulnerability outside of the paint will be masked. Bogut is a fantastic defender, but Asik will seek to occupy him at all times with physicality, limiting his interior presence. Both will get rebounds.
Anything can happen
The Warriors have a much better bench and a better team in general. They are better coached, have home-court advantage, and are going in well-rested.
However, it's playoff time and May 3 marks the eighth anniversary of the eighth-seeded, young, untested Warriors knocking off the 67-15, historic, first-seeded Dallas Mavericks. Anything can happen.
The series tips off Saturday, and game seven (if necessary) is scheduled for May 3 to close out the first round encounter between the eighth-seeded, young, untested Pelicans and the 67-15, historic, first-seeded Golden State Warriors.
If you believe history repeats, than you might just be in for a treat.
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