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Analysis: Draymond Green terrorizes Davis, Pelicans in 131-121 Warriors win

On Halloween night, the Warriors’ All-Star forward nearly gets the triple-double while making life a nightmare for the visiting Pelicans.

NBA: New Orleans Pelicans at Golden State Warriors Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

After going 3-0 on a brief Eastern road trip, the Golden State Warriors returned to Oracle Arena to face the New Orleans Pelicans on Halloween night. The Pelicans came into Oracle reeling a bit, having lost two straight. But even with Anthony Davis returning after missing the previous two games with an elbow injury, the Pelicans could not get the win over the defending champions. The Warriors used a 37-29 third quarter to pull away from the Pelicans late and secure the 131-121 victory, the team’s sixth-straight victory

Draymond drives the Warriors to a win

Each Warriors All-Star has had a chance to shine over the past few games—Curry dropping 51 on the Washington Wizards, Kevin Durant’s 25-point fourth quarter at Madison Square Garden, and Klay Thompson’s slump-busting record-breaking 14 three-pointers against the Chicago Bulls. On Wednesday night against the Pelicans, it was Draymond Green’s time to shine.

Green scored 16 points, grabbed 15 rebounds, and handing out 8 assists in the win over the Pelicans. Unfortunately, Green came up two assists short of the all-important triple-double (in the eyes of some people/2017 NBA MVP voters) but it was still his best all-around performance of the season.

But what made Green’s game against the Pelicans really special was his defense, which was absolutely ferocious. Contesting shots, providing great help defense, Green did a little bit of it all and was fired up about it.

Green played a magnificent defensive game on Wednesday night all while having to deal with an entire big man playing for the opposition. But Davis struggled mightily against this Green-led Warriors defense. The Pelicans’ All-Star scored 17 points on 6/16 shooting and was ineffective for most of the game, largely the result of Green’s defensive presence.

Between this game and their matchup in the Western Conference Semifinals last season, when he averaged a triple-double and was possibly the Warriors’ best player, it’s very clear that Green relishes the change to play against this Pelicans team, and Davis in particular.

NBA: New Orleans Pelicans at Golden State Warriors
Draymond Green was a defensive dynamo on Wednesday night, contesting shots and leading the Warriors to the win over the Pelicans.
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

But then there’s my favorite theory—that Green’s inspired play was because they were going up against DeMarcus Cousins’ former team who were seemingly comfortable letting him walk away this offseason.

I’m not just making this up out of thin air. Green’s pre-game comments might have given us a window into his mindset for this game against the Pelicans

Whatever the motivation, it was vintage Draymond Green as he displayed all the things that make him such a remarkable player and was a large part of why the Warriors were able to get the win.

A flurry from Curry in the third

Curry had another of his patented third-quarter explosions against the Pelicans, scoring 16 of his 37 points in the third while going 4/7 from three-point range. Not surprisingly, that third quarter was when the Warriors were finally able to put some distance between themselves and the Pelicans.

Curry went 7/11 in the win, making it clear early in the game he was feeling good about his three-point shot.

But it wasn’t just Curry’s outside shooting, it was also his ball-handling and ability to get to the basket. You see his ability to create off the dribble and convert as he gets close to the basket on this layup in that outstanding third quarter

Curry also showed off his elite handles in the first quarter, keeping the dribble alive after a steal and finding Kevin Durant cutting to the basked, who was fouled to go to the line for free-throws.

Curry tallied 3 steals and 9 of the Warriors’ 39 assists. Those 39 assists are the most the Warriors have had in one game in this still-young season while last season the Warriors had 39+ assists in a game just twice. It was impressive night for the Warriors and Curry, playing himself into the MVP conversation, was a major contributor.

NBA: New Orleans Pelicans at Golden State Warriors
Curry looked like a MVP yet again, scoring 37 points in the Warriors’ Halloween-night win over the Pelicans.
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

An impressive outing for the Dubs’ bench

Wednesday night’s game was another one full of Warriors fouls, which meant they were going to need big minutes from their reserves and have them step up for the starters who found themselves in some early foul trouble.

After Damian Jones got called for two fouls early in the first quarter, he had to be sent to the bench and Kevon Looney took his place on the court. Looney played excellently in those minutes, helping Green deal with Davis on defense while maintaining a presence on the offensive glass, pulling down four offensive rebounds in the first quarter alone.

On one possession in the first quarter, Looney got two offensive rebounds on one possession, keeping the ball in the Warriors’ hands and setting up a Jonas Jerebko three-pointer.

Jerebko provided the offense off the Warriors bench, scoring 10 points and going 2/5 from three-point range. After looking shaky in the first game of the season, Jerebko has really settled into his role with this team and is giving them exactly what they need from that spot in their rotation.

Though not playing as well as he did against his hometown Bulls, Alfonzo McKinnie had another solid game on Halloween night. In slightly under 11 minutes, McKinnie scored 5 points and grabbed 5 rebounds, including 2 offensive rebounds. It was McKinnie’s energy that had the biggest impact, as those offensive rebounds kept Warriors’ possessions alive and led to better scoring opportunities.

Questions hung over this bench unit to start the season, but so far it looks like the Warriors have enough depth to compliment the abundance of star power in their lineup. In fact, this year’s bench might already look to be better than the bench on last year’s championship-winning squad.

Holiday and Mirotic carry the Pelicans

As I mentioned earlier, it was a game to forget for Davis. But the Pelicans still made it tough on the Warriors because of the play of their other players, with Jrue Holiday leading the way. The Pelicans guard scored 28 points against the Warriors while also handing out 9 assists. Holiday also did a good job as a perimeter defender, getting two steals and taking advantage of the Warriors’ occasional carelessness with the basketball. The Warriors had 17 turnovers on Wednesday night, resulting in 24 Pelicans points.

NBA: New Orleans Pelicans at Golden State Warriors
Jrue Holiday played well against the Warriors but it wasn’t enough to get the Pelicans a win.
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

The Pelicans second-leading scorer against the Warriors was Nikola Mirotic, who had 26 points in the loss. Mirotic is a player that can give the Warriors trouble, particularly with his three-point shot. But he wasn’t hot enough for the visiting team to overcome Davis’ poor play and get the Pelicans a win.

After Holiday and Mirotic, it was E’Twaun Moore providing the Pelicans with an offense punch, scoring 21 points. 13 of Moore’s points came in the first half as he helped the Pelicans keep up with the Warriors and respond whenever the Dubs looked to be starting to pull away.

But ultimately the Pelicans could not overcome a less-than-stellar performance from Davis.

Against a team like the Warriors, the Pelicans need to have Davis playing up to his MVP-caliber level. On Wednesday night, he was nowhere near that level thanks to Green’s frustrating defending of him.

Closing things out, once again I want to make a musical nod/tip of the cap to the Warriors’ most recent opponent. Here’s the Hot 8 Brass Band, from New Orleans, playing a wonderful cover of Marvin Gaye’s hit song “Sexual Healing.”

If you’d like to relive last season’s championship run, please consider picking up a copy of my book, Golden Age: The Brilliance of the 2018 Champion Golden State Warriors. It is published by Triumph Books and available in both paper and digital copies.