Warriors respond to challenge by plowing through Pelicans in Game 4
The New Orleans Pelicans dominated the Golden State Warriors in game three of their Western conference semifinal series Friday night. There is little doubt that the outcome got the attention and affected the pride of the champions.
Suffice it to say the Warriors were motivated. prepared and ready going into game four.
They returned to the role of playing like the champions they are, dominating from start to finish in a 118-92 victory at Smoothie King Center Sunday.
Golden State controlled play from start to finish, never trailing. The Pelicans tied the Warriors at 2-2 and again at 4-4 and that was it.
The Warriors came out like a house of fire, nailing six of their first eight shots while the Pelicans committed two early turnovers and Golden State led 14-4 with 8:26 to play in the opening quarter, forcing a New Orleans timeout.
Kevin Durant hit his first two mid-range jump shots, a clear picture of what was to come.
Anthony Davis answered by hitting his first two shots, not a clear picture of what was to come.
Once again, New Orleans did not challenge Draymond Green on the perimeter, giving him huge space to shoot if he chose.
Green started on Davis while Andre Iguodala started on Niko Mirotic. Iguodala did a great job throughout while Green, per usual, was effective.
Green blocked Rondo on a drive and immediately screamed in his face. Golden State made Rondo a shooter and the strategy worked as he missed his first four attempts.
Davis scored the first eight points of the game for New Orleans as the Pelicans trailed 20-8.
The Pelicans once again opted not to guard Green on the perimeter and he burned them with two 3-pointers in the first quarter.
Golden State shredded the New Orleans defense in the first quarter, taking a 37-22 lead. Davis had 14 points and missed three point-blank shots. The rest of the team scored eight points. There was little ball movement and little in transition.
The Warriors shot 62.5 percent from the field (15-of-25) and from 3-point range (5-of-9). Golden State had 12 assists with excellent ball movement. They shot open 3’s and layups. New Orleans shot 28.6 percent from the field (6-of-21). New Orleans stayed in the game by making 9-of-9 from the free throw line. The Pelicans had just five assists, an illustration of the lack of ball movement.
Mirotic did not attempt a shot while Jrue Holiday had just two points on 1-of-4 shooting.
He did to start the second quarter, a rushed, contested 3-pointer which he missed but Rondo hustled and converted on a follow-up, precipitating an early quarter timeout by Steve Kerr just 45 seconds into the period. The Pelicans got three shots in the sequence with good energy.
Davis sat for the first three minutes of the second quarter before returning. Davis failed to convert five point-blank opportunities in the paint and at the rim in the half.
Holiday hit a 3-pointer to cut the deficit to 47-37.
The Pelicans played better defense in the second quarter and the Warriors cooled down a bit, predictably.
Green finally lost his cool, flopping late in the half and did not get the call. Davis converted the shot and Green lost his cool and incurred a technical foul. E’Twaun Moore converted the free throw and cut the deficit to 55-51 but Durant was fouled on a mythical call and hit two free throws.
Mirotic then turned it over and Curry hit a layup to make it 59-51 before Moore hit a 3-pointer and it was 59-54. Durant hit a jumper in the lane to make it 61-54 at the half.
New Orleans shot just 38 percent (16-of-43) in the half and only trailed by seven points.
Durant dominated the half with 20 points, seven rebounds and three assists. New Orleans stayed in the game at the free throw line, going 18-of-19 after attempting all of 32 free throws combined in the first three games to 85 attempts for the Warriors.
Golden State cooled off in the second quarter but still shot 52 percent for the half. New Orleans won the boards 27-21 in the half but committed eight turnovers to just three for the Warriors. The Pelicans had just 10 assists in the half.
The Pelicans reserves were outscored 18-3 by the Golden State bench.
The Warriors opened the second half on a 7-0 run to lead 68-54. They never looked back, dominating the period 33-19 to put the game away 94-73 going to the final quarter.
Give Golden State credit. They went smaller and it worked. They did not switch nearly as much defensively and it paid off. They defended extremely well.
On the other side of the coin, the Pelicans showed little offensively, little ball movement, little shot-making, not enough spacing.
The result was predictable, based on those factors.
The “Big Four” of the Pelicans were anything but big.
Anthony Davis, Jrue Holiday, Niko Mirotic and Rajon Rondo combined to go 19-for-55 (34.5%) from the field.
Davis has 26 points and 12 rebounds but made just 8-of-22 shots from the field. Mirotic was just 1-of-7 for seven points with 11 rebounds. Rondo was just 2-of-10 for six points, though he had 11 rebounds and six assists. Holiday was fine with 20 points on 8-of-16 shooting with seven rebounds.
Moore did his part with 20 points.
New Orleans shut it down with 4:11 to play, taking its starters out and playing reserves. Of course, the reserves were terrible throughout. Ian Clark had 11 points but most were in garbage time and he was 4-of-14 from the field, including a miserable 0-of-7 from 3-point range. Darius Miller did nothing, failing to score. Solomon Hill had just three points.
The Pelicans were miserable on the offensive end, shooting 36 percent for the game. They finished with just 17 assists and a few of those came in garbage time. Contrast that with 36 assists in the game three victory. New Orleans was terrible at ball security with 19 turnovers.
Durant was fabulous with 38 points, nine rebounds and five assists. As good as Holiday is defensively, it is unfair to ask him to guard Durant. Who can? The best option might be Davis but it would sap him on the offensive end, as well as take him away from the basket.
As we have known from the start, you are not going to stop the Warriors, you have to out-score them. The Pelicans did not come close to doing so as they were simply thoroughly beaten in all phases.
There were no illusions about possibly winning four of five games against the world champions after falling behind two games to none. Now, the task becomes trying to win a second game, which is what I predicted before it started (4-2 Golden State win). Based on what we saw today, don’t bet on that. The Warriors appear to have figured out the Pelicans and they now figure to advance to the conference final.
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Born and raised in the New Orleans area, CCSE Owner and CEO Ken Trahan has been a sports media fixture in the community for nearly four decades. Ken started NewOrleans.com/Sports with Bill Hammack and Don Jones in 2008. In 2011, the site became SportsNOLA.com. On August 1, 2017, Ken helped launch CrescentCitySports.com. Having accumulated national awards/recognition (National Football Foundation, College…