New Orleans Pelicans at Golden State Warriors
Oracle Arena -- Oakland, California
Tip-Off: 12:30 PM PT
TV: ABC // Radio: ESPN Radio and KNBR 680
Blog Buddy: The Bird Writes
Today is the day. Playoff basketball is being played. And the Warriors have the lead role.
No longer are the Warriors some young upstart upsetting the Denver Nuggets, like in 2013. They aren't just "happy to be here," and they definitely aren't making any excuses this postseason.
This postseason is different. Now, the Warriors are aiming for a championship. After the regular season the team had, destroying all teams in their path en route to a 67-15 record, the best in franchise history, nothing less would suffice for a franchise and its fan base that has suffered for much too long.
The Warriors haven't been to the Western Conference Finals (much less the Finals) since the bicentennial anniversary of the United States. This is the year; it's been such a golden season (terrible pun intended) that it would be a shame to see it end before then. Golden State is looking to cap off its best season ever and vindicate all of its risky decisions over the past few years: Re-signing Stephen Curry to an extension, keeping Klay Thompson over Kevin Love, trading for Andrew Bogut and Andre Iguodala, and most recently, replacing Mark Jackson with Steve Kerr. (Guess who will be calling the game for ABC, by the way: Mark Jackson himself.) This franchise is ready to roar through the West after two consecutive playoff appearances and a historically good regular season.
The Pelicans, on the other hand, are making their first playoff appearance since the Chris Paul era. It helps to have a dominant player when you're the lower seed, and in going up against the juggernaut Warriors the Pelicans are thanking their lucky stars they have Anthony Davis. Not only is he the best player by far on New Orleans, he might be the most indispensable player in the league. A matchup nightmare, Davis killed the Warriors in both games he played, averaging 29 points per game. And there's this nugget, too, via ESPN's Tom Haberstroh:
Score when Anthony Davis was on the floor vs. the Warriors this season: Warriors 171, Pelicans 167.— Tom Haberstroh (@tomhaberstroh) April 17, 2015
But even though he can't be totally stopped, you can bet Ron Adams and Steve Kerr will come up with a scheme to slow him and make the other Pelicans beat them. Plus, the Warriors have arguably the best defensive tandem at the 4/5 with Green (one of the favorites for Defensive Player of the Year) and Bogut (ditto). As our Andy Liu pointed out, the Warriors could make Davis absolutely miserable this postseason.
And on offense, it's about how fast the Warriors can play while taking care of the ball. There are almost no teams that can keep up with Golden State when they can get out in transition and play small. In this series, I'm looking for how much Curry gets the ball on the break. Curry destroyed New Orleans on pick-and-rolls, especially with the pet drag screen in transition. Look for Steve Kerr to put New Orleans' Ryan Anderson in tons of pick-and-rolls and make the Pelicans guard Steph with one of their weakest defenders. Without Jrue Holiday to go against him and available to play big minutes, as he's still recovering from an injury, Curry will have a field day against the starting guards of the Pelicans, Eric Gordon and Tyreke Evans.
The Oracle crowd will be absolutely insane in Game One. The Warriors are ready to get these playoffs underway and take their regular-season excellence to another level.
It's the playoffs. Game One. Let's go.