Warriors

Everything you need to know about the gritty, red-hot Pelicans

Everything you need to know about the gritty, red-hot Pelicans

After running through the San Antonio Spurs in a short five-game series, the Golden State Warriors moved onto the second round of the 2018 NBA playoffs. They’ll face a New Orleans Pelicans team that is fresh off a shocking sweep of the third seeded Portland Trail Blazers.

Dating back to the regular season, New Orleans has rattled off nine straight victories. Led by one of the game’s best big men, the Pelicans are on a roll and looking to shake up the Western Conference playoffs.

The Starters
PG: Rajon Rondo

SG: Jrue Holiday

SG: E'Twaun Moore

PF: Nikola Mirotic

C: Anthony Davis

Alvin Gentry turned to a three-guard set throughout the second half of the season, but that’s a scary proposition against the big wings of the Warriors. The addition of Mirotic at the deadline opens the spacing for the Pelican’s guards to maneuver and Davis had an MVP-caliber seasons, especially after the loss of DeMarcus Cousins to injury.

The Bench
PG: Ian Clark

SF: Darius Miller

SF: Solomon Hill

PF: Cheick Diallo

C: Emeka Okafor

During the first round against Portland, Gentry relied heavily on his starting group, playing four players 35 minutes or more per game. Clark, who knows the Warriors well after spending the last two seasons with Golden State, was the only reserve to log 20 minutes a night. Miller, Hill and Diallo will all see action in round two as the Pelicans attempt to slow Kevin Durant at the wing. 35-year-old Emeka Okafor saw just four minutes of action against Portland.

Offense
New Orleans came into the season with two giants in the post. Once Cousins went down with a ruptured Achilles, Gentry had no choice but to turn up the speed. With three point guards in the starting lineup, the Pelicans finished the season leading the league in pace, averaging 100.5 possessions per 48 minutes.

The Pelicans score with the best of them, posting the league’s third best point per game output at 111.3 points per game. They move the ball extremely well, handing out 26.8 dimes a night, but they rank 22nd in the league in turnovers at 14.8 per game.

Throughout the first 48 games of the season, Cousins led the team in 3-point attempts, hoisting 6.1 per game. Once he left the lineup, Mirotic instantly filled that role, attempting 6.6 shots from three each night in a Pelicans uniform. During their four game sweep of the Blazers,

Gentry’s reliance on his starting unit has yielded strong results. Against Portland, Davis averaged 33 points and 11.8 rebounds per game to pace the Pelicans. Holiday was right behind him at 27.8 points and 6.1 assists. Mirotic shot 46.2 percent from deep on his way to 18.3 points per game and Rondo took over the game as a passer, posting 11.3 points and 13.3 assists.

Defense
On the defensive end, the Pelicans are a work in progress. They allowed 110.4 points per game during the regular season, which ranked 29th in the league. But a lot of that was due to the pace they played at. New Orleans posted a defensive rating of 108.3, which ranked 14th in the league, which puts them in the middle of the pack in the NBA.

New Orleans ranked third in the league in both defensive rebounding and blocked shots, and eighth in steals with eight per game. They force 14.5 turnovers per game and hold their opponents to 45.4 percent shooting from the field (ninth best in the NBA).

On the downside, the Pelicans allow 30.6 3-pointers per game and they give up a ton of offensive rebounds. If the Warriors get hot from the perimeter, it could be lights out pretty quick.  

Davis is a defensive anchor that can do it all. The 24-year-old big averaged 2.6 blocks and 1.5 steals per game throughout the regular season and he’s found a new level in the playoffs. Holiday played incredible defense against the Blazers high-scoring guards in the first round, but he’s undersized in his matchup up against Klay Thompson.

Where the Pelicans will really be tested is at the small forward position where Durant has a huge advantage in both size and skill.

Intangibles

The Pelicans are cruising, but the Warriors are a proven winner. All it takes is a Game 1 victory to stymie New Orleans’ momentum and put them on their heels.

This is the first time in Davis’ career that he’s made it out of the first round. Rondo has championship experience, but his only title came a decade ago. His 96 games of playoff experience coming into this season was more than his entire team combined.

New Orleans is an underdog coming into this series, but they weren’t picked to win the first round either and they ran over Portland. This is a gritty group that loves to attack the rim and they are unselfish. Davis is a superstar and a bad matchup for the Warriors bigs.

Steph Curry unveils story behind why the Wolves didn't draft him: 'I hope it's true because that's hilarious'

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AP

Steph Curry unveils story behind why the Wolves didn't draft him: 'I hope it's true because that's hilarious'

With the fifth pick in the 2009 NBA Draft, the Minnesota Timberwolves select... Ricky Rubio.

With the sixth pick in the 2009 NBA Draft, the Minnesota Timberwolves select... Jonny Flynn.

With the seventh pick in the 2009 NBA Draft, the Golden State Warriors select... Stephen Curry.

And the rest is history.

As you all know, the man in charge of those selections -- David Kahn -- was fired in 2013 and no longer works in the NBA.

"My guy David Kahn. I don't know where he's at right now," Curry said on The Bill Simmons Podcast. "I don't know if that ever came out -- there's a story. Everybody knows how much I love golf -- play it in my spare time and what not.

"I think the word on the street was that he didn't draft me because in Minnesota it's cold and I wouldn't be able to play as much golf so I would have been miserable."

A shocked Simmons asked Curry: "Is that true?"

"I hope it's true because that's hilarious (laughter)," Curry said. "That's hilarious."

To which Simmons responded: "It was idiotic in the moment. I did a draft diary. I was going nuts. Because if you're gonna take two point guards, how are you not one of the two? And then if you're gonna go all-in on Rubio and you don't even know if he's gonna come over..."

Rubio didn't leave Spain for the NBA until the 2011-12 season, and a hip injury unfortunately ended Flynn's career after just two plus seasons.

There's no way we will ever find out if that golf story is true, but just like Steph... we certainly hope it is.

Drew Shiller is the co-host of Warriors Outsiders. Follow him on Twitter @DrewShiller

Steph Curry shares one of his favorite Draymond Green stories: 'Livingston was posting me up...'

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AP

Steph Curry shares one of his favorite Draymond Green stories: 'Livingston was posting me up...'

Steph Curry and Draymond Green have a special relationship. 

They have been teammates since the 2012-13 season and have been through a lot together.

[REWIND: That time Draymond & Curry bonded over BBQ, beer when trailing Grizzlies in playoffs]

Curry recently was a guest on The Bill Simmons Podcast, and obviously Draymond was a topic of conversation:

Simmons: "What’s your favorite Draymond story? What’s the one story that captures what it’s like to be on the same team as Draymond Green? Other than the game where he almost got thrown out for trash-talking the Clippers when he wasn’t even in uniform." (laughter)

Curry: "I remember that game. Probably the times him and Coach Kerr get into it. And you’re inside of practice and you don’t know whose side to take. Just like, 'I guess they’re both right, but they’re both wrong.'"

Simmons: "What do they argue about? Give me an example."

Curry: "They argue about a play call or maybe something Coach Kerr has been thinking about for a couple games ... and he's like 'Don’t over-coach. We know what we doing.' And coach is like, 'Well, I know you know what you’re doing, but let me just help you along as I’m supposed to do. That’s what my job is to do -- to point out things that could be important for us to win a championship.' 

"But they have a real -- the respect level between those two is at an all-time high, but they have their moments and it’s just amazing entertainment to watch in practice. Coach’s first year, we were doing some five-on-five drill, and Draymond loves talking trash to the whole team -- doesn’t matter if it’s me. Shaun Livingston was posting me up on the block and I had no chance to try to contest his shot. And he did a little turnaround, a Shaun Livingston vintage turnaround over the top of me.

"And Draymond was like, 'He’s too small, Dot! He’s too small, Dot! Baby food!' Yelling all that stuff during the middle of practice, and he’s on my team (laughter). I’m like, 'Bro, come on.' That little stuff happens, but then when him and Coach Kerr get into it, the whole practice stops because they’re two important voices when it comes to how practice is flowing.

"So, we let them kind of deal with their issue and we keep it moving. At then at the end of practice, it’s just like nothing happened. And that’s the best part."

Don't ever change, Draymond. Don't ever change.

Drew Shiller is the co-host of Warriors Outsiders. Follow him on Twitter @DrewShiller