It was conspicuous coming into this series between Golden State and New Orleans that one team was on the rise, and the other was on a mission.
The Warriors, led by Stephen Curry’s 22 points, six assists and four rebounds, took a 2-0 series lead after defeating the Pelicans in Game 2, 97-87. They didn’t play their best game offensively, only shooting 30 percent from downtown and just 12-of-19 from the charity stripe, but they made all the right plays when it mattered.
The Warriors, fresh off their best season in franchise history, watched the Lakers win the division and hang championship banners year after year. Then, they watched the Clippers garner some of that California attention because of their superstar power and exciting fast breaks leading to emphatic dunks. You can also look back to the Chris Webber and Mike Bibby days in Sacramento. It seems like all the California teams have had their share of glory days – albeit none of which can be comparable to what the Lakers have done.
After winning the Western Conference this year, the Dubs are on a mission to prove to the universe that the regular season wasn’t a fluke. And through two games in the best-of-seven series with the Pellies, we’ve seen just that.
It wasn’t about the fact that they won, it was simply about the way they ended up doing so. With 5:34 remaining in the final period, the Warriors led 85-84 after Anthony Davis connected on two free throws. Once again, the game was going to come down to which team performed the best in the closing minutes. The Warriors ended this affair on the 12-3 run, which amounted to pure dominance and too much splash.
Watching this game, it looked as if the Warriors had been here before and were playing with a ton of playoff experience. On the contrary, it was blatantly evident that the Pelicans hadn’t, as New Orleans wilted down the stretch.
In Game 1, Golden State corralled 11 steals, which allowed them to get out in transition and keep New Orleans on its heels. They continued to force the issue and play to their tempo this game to the tune of 24 fast break points off 13 turnovers. (Eight of which were steals.)
In the end, when the Warriors put their foot on the gas and assert themselves on both ends, the Pelicans don’t have much of a chance, especially at Oracle Arena. The Warriors improved to 41-2 at home, including the regular season, not having lost a game in their building since January. That raucous crowd fuels the home team and helps them during their patented spurts.
The discouraging part for New Orleans is that Davis played well, tallying 26 points and 10 rebounds. The starting backcourt of Tyreke Evans and Eric Gordon combined for 39 points. Norris Cole chipped in 11 points off the bench with Jrue Holiday hurting. You just get the feeling like their best simply isn’t good enough.
The Warriors are indeed on a mission that goes beyond this series at hand. This was the first time since the 1975-76 season that they won the Pacific Division. They went on to lose in the Western Conference Finals that year, so they’re hoping for a different fate this time around. When they made the playoffs two years ago, it was their first playoff birth since the 2006-07 season. After losing in the second round that year, then getting disposed in the first round last season, the Warriors have their eyes set on brighter days.
Ultimately, the Pelicans are a sacrificial lamb – a team standing in the way of the Warriors’ plans. But their future is bright as well. It just isn’t glistening enough at this very moment to disrupt what’s transpiring with the run-and-gun, high-octane team in Golden State.