this is a discussion within the Pelicans Community Forum; The New Orleans Pelicans didn&rsquo;t beat the top-seeded Golden State Warriors on Saturday, but Anthony Davis&rsquo; team won something. Kind of. Despite losing 106-99, the Brow and Co. pushed the league&rsquo;s top team right to the brink, proving to the ...
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Biggest Takeaways from New Orleans Pelicans' 2015 NBA Playoffs Debut
The New Orleans Pelicans didn’t beat the top-seeded Golden State Warriors on Saturday, but Anthony Davis’ team won something.
Despite losing 106-99, the Brow and Co. pushed the league’s top team right to the brink, proving to the world—and more importantly, to themselves—that they belong. While the Dubs are likely to come out on top in the end, the Pelicans made it very clear they won’t give an inch.
Tyreke Evans went down with a knee injury in the second quarter, which really hurt New Orleans. According to ESPN’s Marc Stein, it looks like Evans will give it a go on Monday night:
Evans’ versatility was a source of refuge throughout NOLA’s injury-plagued regular season. He missed just three games in total and seamlessly transitioned from starting wingman to point guard when Jrue Holiday got hurt. It’s ironic and unfortunate he’s been bitten by the injury bug now.
The health of its floor general is certainly a question mark, but New Orleans gave us a lot of answers on Saturday afternoon.
Let’s dive into the biggest ones.
Sic the Dogs on Steph
In 40 minutes of action, Steph Curry went for 34 points, five assists, four rebounds and three steals. It was a performance that embodied exactly why there’s a good chance he’ll win MVP.
"That's what he does," head coach Steve Kerr said, per The Associated Press (h/t ESPN). “Steph's our engine. Everything we do starts with him.”
No secrets there.
New Orleans isn’t going to totally shut down Curry. He’s too darn good for that to happen. But the Pelicans need to make his life a living hell.
Things were too easy for Curry on Saturday. He danced and darted and scored without taking much of a beating. At one point, after a big bucket late in the first half, the 185-pound point guard flexed his muscles to a buzzing crowd at Oracle Arena.
Curry is dominant because he’s supremely skilled and immensely intelligent—not because he’s bigger or stronger than everyone else.
Of his 13 converted field goals, eight were layups. Five of his first six buckets came at the rim, some completely uncontested.
“We gave up so many easy baskets that it got their crowd into it,” head coach Monty Williams said after the game, per John Reid of NOLA.com. “They got a lot of juice. We didn't do a good job of reading the dive and taking away the three. We either took away one and gave up the other, so we got to get better at that.”
This is not to say the Pelicans should, in any way, play dirty. But they absolutely need to rough Curry up some more.
When the shifty guard drives in, Omer Asik, Dante Cunningham, Ryan Anderson and even Quincy Pondexter need to put him down. Not with any bad intentions, of course—just a good, hard basketball play.
Put him on the line, make him earn all those points. Curry is going to get them anyway as the league’s most accurate foul-shooter, so New Orleans might as well give him a dose of reality whenever he slithers into the paint.
That's one way to limit the Warriors' momentum and stop them from going on one of their patented tears. Curry might also start settling for more jumpers if he knows a strong forearm or two is waiting for him in the middle.
Jrue Holiday had the right idea midway through the fourth quarter:
Whenever Curry starts moving and grooving, it’s over. Not just for the Pelicans, but every team in the league. As Kerr said, the rest of the Warriors feed off him, especially when he gets hot.
If Curry goes for 34 again in Game 2, the Pelicans will still have a chance…as long as it’s a hard-earned 34 that comes along with some bruises.
Attack, Attack, Attack
For much of the game Golden State had its foot right on the Pelicans’ throat. But after Davis got way up to power home a lob for two of his game-high 35 points with three minutes left, making it a 10-point game, something clicked.
Have you ever seen Semi Pro with Will Ferrell? In one scene (NSFW), the Flint Tropics discover the alley-oop, which had never been seen or done before, at least in this movie. They kept on lobbing and dunking and scoring…and winning.
That’s kind of what happened on Davis’ jam. The Pelicans are quite familiar with the lob, but in the last few minutes they made a point of putting their heads down and getting to the rim.
It didn’t work every time, but they were scoring, slamming and getting to the stripe. After Davis hit his sixth foul shot of the final two minutes, the underdogs had closed the gap to four points (103-99) with under 10 seconds to go.
Davis poured in 20 of his 35 points in the final period. He talked to NBA.com’s Jim Eichenhofer about what triggered that burst of aggression:
I wasn’t aggressive in the first half. In the third quarter, I got in foul trouble, so I really couldn’t play and I was kind of pissed that I couldn’t play. I just told myself when I get back in the game I’m going to be aggressive and try to come back. We’ve seen things happen before. Just because they’re up 20 doesn’t mean they’re winning the game, especially in the playoffs. That was our mindset as a team, and we almost came back and won.Davis is unbelievably clutch, and has been all year long. The bigger the moment, the bigger he plays. Game 2 will be very important, as Golden State will be looking to protect its home-court advantage.
“We don’t believe in moral victories, but what we did in the second half definitely gives us a lot of confidence going into tomorrow night,” Davis said on Sunday, via Eichenhofer. “We believe we can beat this team—there’s no doubt in our mind that we can. We’ve just got to come out and play the first half like we played the second half.”
Nobody outside that locker room seems to give New Orleans much of a chance against the mighty Warriors. For a long time, though, nobody seemed to give the Pels a shot against the Oklahoma City Thunder for eighth place either.
And we know how that worked out. If the ‘Cans play a tougher, more aggressive game on Monday night, there’s no reason why they can’t steal one on the road and head home with the wind at their backs.
Read more New Orleans Pelicans news on BleacherReport.com