On Saturday at Oracle Arena, the Warriors will face off against the Pelicans in the first round of the 2015 playoffs. Finally, the playoffs are upon us.
The Warriors were a juggernaut all regular season, finishing with the best point differential since the 1996 Bulls -- a team that won 72 GAMES -- and the league's best defense and second-best offense (by just .1 point per 100 possessions, per NBA.com). They won 67 games, the best record in franchise history and the sixth-best record in NBA history.
Now, they have got to prove it in the postseason. Nobody remembers the regular-season champion.
The Pelicans are led by Anthony Davis, the do-everything power forward who has been one of the leading MVP candidates this season. However, they've got talent outside of Davis, including former All-Stars Eric Gordon and Jrue Holiday, as well as former Rookie of the Year Tyreke Evans. Make no mistake: New Orleans is not Davis and a bunch of scrubs.
However, the Warriors can see the Pelicans' talent and not only match it, but raise it, with Stephen Curry, the favorite for MVP, Draymond Green, Klay Thompson, Andrew Bogut -- along with super-swingman Andre Iguodala coming off the bench. Plus, the Warriors have home-court advantage this season, playing the first two games at Oracle, where they went 39-2 this season.
Golden State also has the better coaching staff, with Steve Kerr, Alvin Gentry and Ron Adams improving the team's offense and defense to world-class this year. Monty Williams, on the other hand, repeatedly fails to get Davis the ball as much as he should; I attended the first Warriors-Pelicans game where Williams had Davis, his team's best player just stand in the corner for a few minutes. Williams likely deserves more credit than he is getting for helping the Pelicans into the playoffs and getting his team to buy into a belief and a culture. Getting a team to buy into a mantra "in the long term," though, only goes so far; good coaching along with talented players and a good system makes a team succeed to its full capacity. Right now, Kerr and his staff push the Warriors higher and higher.
Golden State has Curry, a brilliant defense, and the coaching staff to be able to slow Davis down. Too much Curry, too much defense, too much coaching, too much Oracle for the Pelicans to match. The Warriors are seeking a championship this season; they aren't just happy to be here anymore. It is time to show up and dominate like the world-beaters Golden State has been all season, and I think they will.
In my opinion, the most likely outcomes for this series are a Warriors sweep or a Warriors victory in five games.