The Golden State Warriors are fresh off of a 123-101 plucking of the New Orleans Pelicans in Game 1 of the second round of the 2018 playoffs. Remember when people were wondering if the champs could “flip the switch”?
The Dubs decided to go old school and cut themselves a switch to spank the Pelicans with.
This game was pretty much over at halftime, but there was still plenty to glean. Let’s get wet with four splashing observations!
The Warriors just Weaponized Joy without Steph Curry
Last year, I penned an exuberant homage to the Warriors secret formula for destroying the NBA: “WEAPONIZED JOY”. You see, it’s not just the fact that our players are talented, work hard, and have a high IQ. That’s just the ingredients for good basketball.
It’s that each player genuinely wants the success of his teammates to match, if not EXCEED their own! The more spectacular the play, the higher the ignition of excitement and fun. The joy fuels their high level play which in turn fuels their joy which in turn crushes your franchise.
GSoM’s legendary scribe Hugo Kitano thoughtfully meditated on how that joy has been missing in the absence of two-time MVP, greatest point guard alive, Stephen Curry a.k.a. “Unanimous.” Even last round’s (gentleman’s) sweep of the San Antonio Spurs was more janitorial than joyful.
And then the first half of last night’s game fell upon us like the dawn of a future era of glory.
- Klay Thompson and Kevin Durant both had 18 points at the half.
- Draymond Green had 12 points, 10 rebounds, 8 assists, 3 steals, and 3 rejections after two damned quarters!
- Warriors had 10 assists and 1 turnover in the second quarter. The Pelicans had 5 assists and 5 turnovers.
- The Warriors outscored the Pelicans 41-21 in the second quarter.
The Warriors swarmed defensively, walling off Anthony Davis from doing any serious damage. On offense, the ball swung from player to player with purpose and flair. The screens were mean, the cuts were sharp, and any mismatches were quickly exploited.
As the lead began to swell, the fired up Oakland crowd poured frothing energy onto the court. Every good pass was met with an anticipatory ripple of encouragement, and made-baskets provided surges of adrenaline that lifted the Golden Faithful to their feet.
I could feel it: they were waiting for that one play, that one moment of humiliation that would break the Pelicans will for the evening.
Suddenly, the Warriors began ripping off dominating sequences of play, ballooning DubNation’s hysteria into monstrous, cumulonimbus clouds that hovered over the hardwood. But with “Unanimous” sidelined, oh-so-close to returning to action, which Golden Hero could fulfill the arena’s raging desire for punishing rain?
Oh you forgot about the other Splash Brother, huh? Yeah, Klay Thompson made Anthony Davis hit that Rain Dance.
Wait wait wait, did “The Android” leave “The Brow” in the dust with a dribble move....AND THEN WAIT FOR HIM TO GET BACK ON DEFENSE?! Oh my goodness, this was hella gold-blooded. #raindance #splashbro
Warriors 76, Pelicans 52 after the carnage of two quarters. The game was effectively over. #weaponizedjoy
We were all wondering if Curry would play last night. He didn’t, but that didn’t stop Warriors head coach Steve Kerr from dropping another bombshell surprise.
Nick Young in the starting lineup— Marcus Thompson (@ThompsonScribe) April 29, 2018
Whaaaaaat? I mean, I know we’re trying to weaponize some joy, but inserting “Swaggy P” blew my mind. Young had only started eight times during the regular season, and not at all during the Spurs series. The Warriors braintrust noted how the Pelicans abandoned non-shooters when they destroyed the Portland Trailblazers, and dusted off Swaggy to counteract that.
Draymond Green on the starting lineup decision, going small vs the Pelicans, bumping him to center pic.twitter.com/pPtsQHVRsq— Anthony Slater (@anthonyVslater) April 29, 2018
Young’s jobs were to guard Rajon Rondo and provide floor spacing. Rondo attacked him with ease, but Young did knock down two triples.
The two teams engaged in the defensive strategy of “switch everything.” One moment Jrue Holiday was guarding Thompson, then Durant, then Green. It was like the basketball equivalent of speed dating.
I didn’t know both head coaches had hip hop icon Will Smith draw up their defensive game plans.
Additionally, it was clear both teams were willing to acquiesce open jump shots to Rondo and Green. Rondo went 4-of-10 from the field (0-for-2 from three-point range), while Green went 5-for-9 shooting (1-of-2 from downtown).
Remember when I called Draymond Green’s jumpshots theater? The comedy continued when he made his one, wide-open triple for the evening. He immediately turned to face Pelicans coach (and a former beloved assistant coach for the Warriors) Alvin Gentry and gave him a piece of his outraged mind.
Strength in Numbers is growing stronger
Before the first round of the postseason started, I attempted to uplift a discouraged sect of Warriors fans with gentle admonitions and bombastic encouragement. When I spoke of the champ’s prospects without Curry, I literally said:
The Warriors don’t deserve to be in the playoffs if they can’t win a first round matchup with three likely Hall-of-Famers in their prime, a deep bench, home-court advantage and a former Coach of the Year.
Would you believe some people thought our bench lacked depth and quality? Once we dispatched the Spurs in 5 games, with a strong bench effort to boot, I thought we answered that question. Nope. “The Spurs are old and trash,” the doubters murmured. “What about a real, tough, young playoff team...like the Pelicans!”
Kevon Looney, I don’t think those folks believe in you.
Looney block ➡️ Quinn lay-up.— Warriors on NBCS (@NBCSWarriors) April 29, 2018
Looney steal ➡️ Livingston dunk. pic.twitter.com/MBuQJJ0uhB
Looney: the first Warrior to challenge AD tonight — albeit it with a move plucked out of the Electric Slide at a retirement party— Marcus Thompson (@ThompsonScribe) April 29, 2018
Looney defended Davis shockingly well and seemed to be in the right place at the right time all night. TNT’s Kenny “The Jet” Smith singled out Looney’s stout contributions, reminding the viewers that although they might not show up in the box score, his defensive presence changed the game. Still, if you wanted to look at that box score, Looney’s +34 plus/minus in 24 minutes might give you something to chew on.
Also, if you were one of the people who claimed that we made a mistake bringing back Livingston because he can’t space the floor, please reconsider. Livingston scored 10 points on 50% shooting from the floor, using his long 6’7 frame to bully the small Pelicans’ guards.
Jrue Holliday and Rondo may have terrorized the diminutive Portland guards C.J. McCollum and Damian Lillard, but they looked like toddlers against Livingston in the post. Not only that, Livingston’s high IQ kept the Warriors’ offensive passing machine humming at a steady clip.
In case you had your doubts, please take a look at the letter he penned directly to you.
Birds of a feather
Rondo and Green were born from the same fire. Never forget that Rondo was victorious against LeBron James and Kobe Bryant ten years ago as a member of the Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Ray Allen version of the Boston Celtics. Since then, he’s bounced around the league. He sabotaged from within the Dallas Mavericks, and nearly resurrected the decrepit Chicago Bulls. Now, with the Pelicans, he’s rediscovered his mysterious mojo. Even though he hates the nickname, “Playoff Rondo” is in the house!
Last night, he finished with 9 points, 8 rebounds, and 11 assists. In the early going, before the Dubs unleashed pure devastation, Rondo had the Pellies looking sharp. He blocked a Thompson trey, threaded the needle on daring assists, and barked at the referees. He was locked in, looking to manipulate the game in any possible way.
The funny thing was, Green was doing the same damn thing on the opposite end of the court. He finished with 16 points, 15 rebounds, and 11 assists. At one point, Rondo was attempting to commandeer a ref’s attention during free throws, before Green barged in telling them to wrap it up. Some jovial trash talk ensued between the two highly competitive jack-of-all-trades at the free throw line, and I realized something.
These two dudes are actually pretty similar! They both control the game with their brains, love to do dirty work, and have a penchant for passing. They are also both well documented to butt heads with authority and teammates. And both of them have suspect jumpshots. I look forward to their interactions going forward in this series.
No Warriors practice tomorrow. They'll get some guys in to scrimmage with Steph Curry. Then Curry will take part in practice Monday, "very likely" to return in Game 2 on Tuesday.— Anthony Slater (@anthonyVslater) April 29, 2018
Who was the Warrior Wonder in Game 1 against the Pelicans
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