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Key Matchup: The Warriors Bigs vs Demarcus Cousins & Anthony Davis

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With Draymond Green likely out for tonight’s game, who will step up for the Warriors?

NBA: Golden State Warriors at New Orleans Pelicans Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

The Golden State Warriors hit the road for a three-game set against the Southwest division. First up, the New Orleans Pelicans.

The Pelicans boast the best front court duo in Demarcus Cousins and Anthony Davis coupled with possibly the worst back-court in the NBA.

I originally had Draymond Green pitted against Demarcus Cousins for the key match-up of the game but it was uncertain as to whether he’d play at all after suffering a knee injury in the season opener against the Houston Rockets.

The MRI showed came back negative, which is great news. And the latest update on Green is that he is probable:

The best call in all of this would be to give Green some time to rest his knee.

It’s a shame if we don’t get to see this match-up because I had all these odds on who would draw the first technical foul and who was more likely to get ejected. Oh whatever, I’ll just share it anyways:

First player to draw a technical foul (odds):

Demarcus Cousins - 2/3

Draymond Green - 3/1

Player to get ejected (odds):

Demarcus Cousins - 4/1

Draymond Green - 5/1

Double Ejection - 10/1

Update (10/20 @ 10:30 a.m.): Draymond Green is available to play against the Pelicans. So the odds still stand.

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s get into the key match-up of tonight's game. The key match-up is really a collective effort of the Warriors big men against the duo of Davis and Cousins.

Containing Cousins and Davis

How do you stop Anthony Davis and Demarcus Cousins? That’s a trick question. You can’t stop them, you just hope to contain them as much as possible. Last year, the Warriors opened up the season at home vs the San Antonio Spurs and lost. Then they started a three-game road trip and played none other than the New Orleans Pelicans in the second game of the season. Similar situation this season as they start a three-game road trip.

If you recall that game, Anthony Davis completely abused the Warriors by putting up 45 points and 17 rebounds. The Warriors ended up winning 116-110, but Draymond Green was getting abused in the paint:

The Pelicans have since added Demarcus Cousins to the mix, which forces the Warriors to choose their battle. Green is the Warriors’ best defender and truly their best center on the roster. Without him...

Who matches up the best if Green is out?

Let’s look at the Warriors’ big men to see who can pick up the void on defense if Green sits out:

Kevin Durant

Kevin Durant has shown us all that he is a solid rim protector and a more than capable defender. Durant will have to take the primary task of defending Anthony Davis, who is arguably the best player at his position. Davis is quick in transition and can handle the ball well for his size. Durant matches up best as he can keep up with the athletic Davis.

As the season progressed last year, Durant’s defense continued to improve. After a sloppy game in the opener, Durant should clean up his game and be more alert defensively. At a minimum, if Durant can get a hand in Davis’ face and cut off easy opportunities to the rim, he can slow him down.

Zaza Pachulia

Zaza Pachulia is a competent defender, but overall he’s a bit slow. He will most likely be tasked with guarding Demarcus Cousins. Cousins is a bigger body and Pachulia can at least defend the low post opportunities. Outside of that, Zaza won’t be able to keep up with Cousins on the perimeter. This will be a match-up that New Orleans tries to exploit early and often.

Jordan Bell

If Green can’t go, expect Jordan Bell to get more playing time. If I was the coach, I would put Patrick McCaw in as starting small forward, move Durant over the power forward, and keep Pachulia at center to start off the game. Bell has shown in summer league and preseason that he has a ton of potential on the defensive end, but it would be unfair to throw him into the fire against two of the NBA’s best forwards.

I would envision him rotating in for Pachulia while Durant moves to the stretch five. Bell will probably help in double teams against Cousins. The Pelicans have a weak shooting back-court so the Warriors can afford to leave someone open.

JaVale McGee

JaVale McGee didn’t play in game one as Kerr likes to limit his rotations based on match-ups. The rotations were very odd and experimental against the Rockets but the game flow didn’t favor McGee. Expect McGee to get his first minutes of the season logged during this game. McGee isn’t the greatest defender, but in spurts he can provide help.

Physically, McGee stacks up the best against Cousins as they are roughly in the same weight range. Those bruising elbows of Cousins can be overpowering for smaller options the Warriors have. McGee has also been working on his 3-point game, so maybe that added element can help him carve out more minutes.

Damian Jones

Jones was inactive for the season opener and this is likely not the best spot for him. I wouldn’t count on him getting a whole lot of playing time during this game.

Kevon Looney

Surprisingly he played key minutes during the Warriors home opener. He wasn’t all that great, so we might not see a whole lot from Looney unless it’s a blowout game. Yet Kerr’s rotations in the first game were unconventional so you never know.

Prediction

Warriors get outscored in the paint by Davis & Cousins, but are able to put together a decent collective effort from the power forward and center rotations. Kevin Durant flexes his defense and lifts the Warriors in Green’s absence as he limits Anthony Davis to a modest output.