Maybe it was the ‘big easy’ moniker that fooled them.
Maybe it was the assumption with Steph Curry back guys could catch their breath.
Maybe it was just a teeny bit of lack of respect for the Pelicans after a couple of fairly easy wins.
But the Warriors came into New Orleans lackadasical, lethargic, and promptly got their behinds handed to them.
Let’s dive into this pile of bird mess and see what we can takeaway.
Kerr messing around
The tone of this game was clear from the start. The Warriors just weren’t taking it seriously enough. And it started with Kerr’s inexplicable decision to start JaVale McGee, despite the obvious success of smaller, more versatile, switchy lineups.
To be clear this loss is not on McGee at all. But Kerr went away from something that was working and the Warriors were thrown out of rhythm from the off.
The first quarter was simply dreadful. To highlight just how dumb this quarter of basketball was, it started with the Warriors tried to throw their customary lobs to McGee.
Except this time they were trying to throw it over the pterodactyl-esque Anthony Davis, with entirely predictable results.
After that the offense devolved into jacking up ugly isolation jumpers. It was a miracle they were only down nine at the end of the quarter. They were helped by some sloppy play on both ends, as the game began to resemble something out of the Eastern Conference playoffs.
What was even more dispiriting than that though was that, having had their asses handed to them to start the first quarter, Kerr went back to McGee to start the second half.
They’d fought their way back to being just down six points behind Klay Thompson’s 20 point second quarter, but the Pelicans took full advantage of the Warriors misfit starting lineup, promptly reeling off a run to stretch the lead to 18.
From that point on the Warriors were playing catch-up.
Kerr’s decision in this game may not be as damaging or maddening as playing those-who-shall-not-be-named in Game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals, but it threw the Warriors off their rhythm and flow just as much. It gave the Pelicans the jumpstart they needed to get back in a series that looked as dead as a dodo in Oakland.
After the game, Draymond Green sent a clear message to his coach.
Draymond Green says he expects to see more time at center the rest of these playoffs. Can't imagine he's wrong.— Tim Kawakami (@timkawakami) May 5, 2018
Let’s hope he heard it.
The three-point line
The key stat of the night was the three point shooting. The Pelicans flapped their wings to an impressive 45.2%, while the Warriors sunk just 29% of their 31 three-pointers.
It’s a truth universally acknowledged that a role player in search of his shot, must be in want of some friendly rims. Like many teams the Pelicans shoot better from three at home (37.4%) than on the road (33.7%).
Tonight was a classic case of good, ol’ fashioned home cooking. Check out these lines from behind the arc:
In the first two games this very same supporting case of Pelicans had combined for 7-for-33.
The good news for the Warriors is that they missed a lot of shots they would usually make. Their pedestrian line wasn’t the case of chucking up bad shots, at least after the first quarter. There were a fair few that rimmed in and out.
It’s also important to remember that Curry is still working his way back from a long layoff. The second game was always going to be harder once the adrenaline and excitement of his return wore off.
The only real concern is what’s going on with Kevin Durant’s three-point shooting. He’s been off all playoffs, and his 1-for-6 effort tonight leaves him on an anemic 27%. But truthfully you can’t expect that to persist. Sooner or later they’re going to go down.
The bad news is that this hot Pelicans three-point shooting wasn’t entirely random. The Warriors’ defensive effort on the three-point line was regular season level, where if you recall the Warriors plummeted from the elite to the middling.
There were repeated dumb breakdowns, leaving Pelicans shooters wide open. This was probably the most egregious of them all.
The Pelicans went 10-for-16 from 3 in the first half. Bad job by Durant & Iguodala here = wide open Mirotic triple pic.twitter.com/qFyfne0QOu— Drew Shiller (@DrewShiller) May 5, 2018
But there were plenty of other examples...
It wasn’t just at the three-point line where the defense was lacking.
Anthony Davis definitely came out with more force in this one, but when he’s getting open dunks off under the basket off a simple inbound play, then you know you’re in trouble.
And Davis might have missed this one, but what the hell was going on here?!
AD out here ruining my Vine pic.twitter.com/feQqvnEDX2— BBALLBREAKDOWN (@bballbreakdown) May 5, 2018
You get the picture. Overall the rotations were sloppy, the communication wasn’t there, and the intensity we’ve seen for most of this postseason was replaced with regular season malaise.
Back to the future
Way back in the distant past, before Durant took his talents to the Bay, the Warriors used to struggle mightily with the third game of playoff series.
Everyone remembers Curry’s heroics in New Orleans back in 2015, but the Warriors had spent most of that game digging themselves into a 20-point hole.
After that they got thumped in Memphis and Cleveland, before losing all of their Game 3s in the 2016 playoffs, some of them in quite hideous fashion.
Since Durant’s arrival though, they’ve been excellent — until tonight they hadn’t lost a single one.
But this was back to the old classic Game 3s, rolling up as if the series was already won and getting their asses handed to them.
This was a throw-back Game 3 for the Warriors. Haven't had one of these since pre-KD— Marcus Thompson (@ThompsonScribe) May 5, 2018
There’s no need to panic though. The Pelicans have the Warriors attention now and you can bet they’ll come out more focused in Game 4, hopefully playing their best lineups.
The defensive intensity will undoubtedly ratchet up. That should help get their rhythm and flow going on offense and some of the shots they missed tonight will go down.
Still, would have been nice to keep that streak going. The Pelicans are a decent team and they’ve got some life now.
Game 4 is going be a battle, and the Warriors had better bring it.