Only two teams were able to go into Oracle Arena this year and defeat the Golden State Warriors, the team with the NBA’s best record. The New Orleans Pelicans aren’t garnering the support of too many people outside of their fans, as the Warriors are heavily favored to win this series rather easily.
After Saturday afternoon’s 106-99 loss, Anthony Davis and the Pelicans are cognizant of the uphill battle they’re facing going forward. He also mentioned that the lack of experience played a factor as the team was plagued by some nerves in the franchise’s first playoff game since the 2011 season. “This is our first time as a unit in the playoffs, and our pace was good. We were moving fast, but our minds were moving fast as well,” Davis told reporters after the game, according to NBA.com’s Antonio Gonzalez.
After scoring just 15 points through three quarters in his playoff debut, Davis erupted with a 20-point fourth quarter. He finished with 35 points on 13-of-23 from the field and seven rebounds. His scoring outburst was tied for the fifth-most in a playoff debut over the last 40 years, and his 35-point, seven-rebound performance joined him with past NBA luminaries Julius Erving, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Wilt Chamberlain as the only players to ever have at least 35 points and five rebounds in their playoff debut, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
The Pelicans have little chance in this series, but if they want to make it interesting, their versatile big man in Davis is going to have to dominate on both ends of the floor. His four blocked shots in this game was something to marvel at when analyzing his defensive production, but offensively he’s tasked with being much more assertive earlier in the game.
As I alluded to, no one outside of New Orleans is picking them to win this series. They simply don’t have the talent to compete with Golden State in a seven-game series. The Warriors’ offensive prowess makes them just so darn tough to defend. During the regular season, they led the league in field goal percentage (47.8), three-point shooting (39.8), points per game (110.0) and were second in offensive rating at 109.7 points per 100 possessions, per NBA.com. Spearheaded by the Splash Brothers, Golden State often blew opponents out and finished with a whopping average point differential of 10.1 points.
Pelicans head coach Monty Williams will go back to the drawing board and come up with schemes to try to slow down the offensive firepower of the Warriors, who shot 45 percent from the field in Game 1 and went to the free throw line 11 more times. (Thanks in large part because of the Hack-a-Iguodala strategy that was employed.)
One aspect of the Warriors that many people don’t mention is their ability to play astute defense, as they were the top-ranked defense in the league in terms of efficiency. In Game 1, they forced 14 turnovers, 11 of which were steals. When they’re getting into the passing lanes and causing this level of disruption, Golden State becomes unbeatable. Giving them extra possessions and allowing those athletic youngsters to get out in transition isn’t a winning formula. The Pelicans desperately need to take care of the basketball going forward in this series.
Fans of the Pelicans have much to be excited about, even though their team is assuredly going home in the first round. The emergence of The Brow is something you can hang your hat on for the time being. His 31-point, 13-rebound performance to end the regular season in a win over the Spurs punched their ticket into the playoffs, and his explosion in the fourth quarter against the Dubs had them within striking distance of a potential series-changing steal in Game 1.
It’ll take a miracle for New Orleans to win this series, but Davis at least gives them a fighting chance. Will he be enough? Get ready for an exciting Game 2!