“Her life is in your hands, Dude. Mr. Lebowski asked me to repeat that: Her life is in your hands, Dude.” That’s what Coach Monty Williams is telling Anthony Davis about the Pelicans’ season-ending stretch. Every game counts as the Pelicans control their own destiny to make that coveted eighth spot in the Western Conference Playoffs.
Tonight the Pelicans will host the three-point assassins of the NBA, the Golden State Warriors. Led by the best shooting back court in NBA history, the Warriors are sitting pretty atop the Western Conference throne with an astonishing record of 63-14.
A little over a week ago, the New Orleans Pelicans were slotted 3.5 games behind the Russell Westbro– I mean, the Oklahoma City Thunder. Now the birds from the Crescent City are a mere .5 game back and own a tiebreaker over the Thunder, thanks to a buzzer beating, three point heroic shot from a mint condition Anthony Davis.
Luckily for the Pels, Oklahoma City has lost three in a row and have dropped five of their last six games. Another reason to count our blessings is the fact that the reigning champs and the golden godfathers of the NBA, the San Antonio Spurs, visit Oklahoma City tonight. We’ve all just become Spurs fans and fans of all teams that oppose the Thunder for the remainder of the season.
Now let’s get to the juicy preview. Pelicans will have to learn how to defend the quick hitters and the three point bombardment that will inevitably take place tonight at the Smoothie King Center. The Warriors won the last meeting between the two 112-96. This doesn’t come as a surprise as the injury-ridden Pelicans were without Anthony Davis, Ryan Anderson and Omer Asik.
The long anticipated wait for Jrue Holiday is still a mystery. The young guns will undoubtedly have to sink deep down and defend well on the perimeter in order to win against the Warriors. The game will be played at a fast pace but the Pelicans will likely want to slow down and take the air out of the ball to limit fast break or quick shot opportunities for the Warriors. Steve Kerr has his guys trained to get open looks on the run and shoot at will when they’re falling. Match-up issues will be present on both ends of the court tonight as an undersized Eric Gordon might have to guard Klay Thompson, and an undersized Steph Curry might have to guard Tyreke Evans. This is where the key signing of Dante Cunningham and the acquisition of Quincy “Q-Pon” Pondexter come into play.
These two, along with Norris Cole, were absolute dynamite moves on the defensive side of the ball for Dell Demps and the Pelicans. Offensively, Pondexter has showed an amazing improvement to his outside game and has done an excellent job filling the role that Ryan Anderson has given the Pelicans time and time again. But defensively, Cunningham and Pondexter can guard everyone on the court except the center. They have done remarkable jobs keeping quick guards at bay and are able to defend and rebound in the same possession. Also the hustle is what makes them both so insanely likable. Both utility swing-men will play pivotal roles tonight as they both could guard anyone from Steph Curry all the way to Harrison Barnes and Draymond Green.
Keys to the Game:
Play fast. But not too fast. Pelicans have the ability to run up and down with almost anybody in the NBA, but they don’t want to bite off more than they can chew with the Dubs from Golden State. If the Tyreke-led break can result in a quick layup or a penetrate and kick to Pondexter or Anderson trailing the break I say take it. Not only does Golden State have the most efficient offense in the league but they defend better than anyone in the NBA in the half-court.
Hedge high on every ball screen. The defensive rotation must be flawless when Steph Curry orchestrates the pick and roll. Defenders must hedge high and force Curry off the three-point line and force him to make plays dishing to rolling big men. We must make David Lee and Andrew Bogut beat us rather than letting MVP-candidate Curry to get going. Anthony Davis and Omer Asik must get quality interior rotation to limit free lanes to the basket and create difficult shots at the rim.
Feed Anthony Davis early and often. Whomever Steve Kerr puts on Anthony Davis is a match-up issue in my opinion. I don’t think anyone on the Warriors has the ability to lock down Davis. I can’t imagine David Lee trying to guard Davis 20 feet from the basket. Blowing by defenders is what Anthony Davis needs to do and then obviously knock down open jumpers. When the fourth quarter comes around, hopefully the fans will be on their feet chanting “MVP, MVP, MVP” when Anthony Davis steps to the line to solidify the much needed home victory.
Come support the Pelicans tonight at the Smoothie King Center at 7pm. After tonight, the Pelicans travel to division rival and currently third seed in the West the Memphis Grizzlies.