Sure, the Warriors didn't need this game tonight, but they sure as hell played like they wanted it. We can sit here and talk for 2000 words about the refereeing in this game, but will come up with the same result that it's still an L in the books. I hate to blame the game on the refs — Steph got two shots to tie and take the lead in the final 20 seconds and missed both. Say you got robbed, say the hometown and even the NBA was pushing for the Pelicans to make the playoffs. The Warriors got beat by a hungry team tonight and despite all their efforts they fell short. I'll say as a fan: lets get these close losses and chances to learn out of the way now.
A few points about the game tonight:
Facing Anthony Davis in the playoffs will obviously be a huge challenge.
Davis changes defenses, he destroys game plans, he disrupts your team's flow. He changes shots, he scores from places he is not suppose to score from, and killed the Warriors' momentum all night long. Facing him under the playoff pressure is about as scary as facing Russell Westbrook, but I think he does some things that are harder for the Warriors to defend than Westbrook's game.
The Warriors were lucky not to have to face Davis the last time these teams played, as AD consistently disrupts even the league's #1 offense. He finally has a healthy team around him (or as close as its going to be) and at times this Pelicans team looks incredibly dangerous. Space the floor with Ryan Anderson (the perfect stretch 4) and Tyreke Evans and this team finally reminds you of its potential. There is a reason the Pelicans have made a late season for the 8th spot. And that reason starts with AD.
Facing great competition before the games get Real
First the Spurs, and now New Orleans on the road — that is one way to keep your team sharp as we approach the first round. We got the best that the Pelicans could offer as this felt like a playoff game for New Orleans. Sure, you could sit your stars and play to not get hurt, but it's clear that guys like Klay Thompson and Draymond Green need those extra reps to get them back to 100%.
It's nice to play for the wins record and the stats are nice, but you play these games to harden yourself to show up and face the biggest challenges when you need to. There was an impressive moment during the third and even back in the first quarter when Curry and friends found ways to stop runs with layups and hustle plays. I can point to a sequence of loose balls on both ends - steals and fast breaks both ways. Curry saved a ball out of bounds, Draymond scrambles for the loose ball as the Pelicans are about to run it back the other way for a crowd-pleasing dunk, but instead the ball trickles out of the scrum to Harrison Barnes for the dunk and the silence. It won't always be pretty - sure maybe some playoff games will be 30 point blowouts, but lets assume playoff contests will be more like tonight.
The MVP talk is constant — the result will piss off a lot of people
Stephen Curry had moments of absolute brilliance tonight. His passing, his shooting, and his defense — the complete package was on display tonight. He faced his MVP candidate counterpart in Anthony Davis and did his part to carry the Warriors offense when it mattered. He did just about everything he could to cast his own ballot for the highest league player honors, but no matter what Curry will do for the remainder of the season the debate will rage on.
Everyone has an opinion, and as a collector of NBA articles and podcasts I have heard them all by now. It makes sense why you would vote for Russell Westbrook, but his defense and his team won't allow for him to win it. It makes sense why you vote for LeBron James, but I believe he has taken too much time off this season for him to earn the vote in the end. I even understand why you make the case for James Harden, and as hard as I look I don't see a clear reason why he wouldn't get the vote. But in the end, I think Curry gets it. Sure, because I am a huge homer, but more importantly because he is simply the best player on the best team, and he regularly is the best player on the court, even against the leagues greatest players. But since I don't get a vote, who cares what I think...
Lots of talk about Defensive Player of the Year and All Defensive Team
This is a short one: Draymond Green gets DPOY and both him and lands on the first-team All-NBA Defense. Bogut will miss the first-team All-NBA defense because of the minutes that he plays, and DeAndre Jordan will get the first honors with Bogut going to the second squad. The bad third quarter wasn't completely the fault of Bogut getting the three fouls in 51 seconds, but it didn't help. Where was Festus Ezeli tonight? Why not let him run at Anthony Davis for awhile? I can sympathize with Festus not being able to extend to AD's range, but he has the feet and the defense to give him a challenge.
Regardless, the voting for All-NBA defense should be easy. And while you are at it, throw Klay on the third-team, won't you?
Not much more to say about this one. Quincy Pondexter will not go 4-4 from deep every game (though Ryan Anderson might). Klay Thompson will not continue to go 2-10 when it counts (though Draymond Green might). We knew these matchups would be tough and even if we would have pulled out the win tonight you still have to think that New Orleans now has the confidence of world-beaters. If I had the choice for Stephen Curry to get two shots for the win including a wide-open three-pointer (that rattles out of the rim after being halfway down) then you have to take the chance. Now the Warriors head home to rest, relax and prepare for the next big steps.