(Photo credit: USA TODAY Sports via Reuters/Kyle Terada)
For all the impressive work the Pelicans did in disposing of the Trail Blazers in four games, they have rapidly been handed a reality check by the Warriors. After Golden State took out the first game in Oakland by 22 points, the second was a little closer. The home side was able to earn themselves a 121-116 victory over New Orleans, pulling away in the final quarter when things got tight.
Steph Curry made his long-awaited return in Game 2, and after starting on the bench managed 28 points in just 27 minutes. Anthony Davis had 25 points, 15 rebounds, five assists and three blocks for the Pelicans, but it still wasn’t enough against the star-studded Warriors.
Three keys to the game
The Curry effect - Though there are plenty of candidates, there is a very reasonable case to be made that Curry is the Warriors' most important player. In his first game back, he showed why. With the exception of Andre Iguodala (+6) and Draymond Green (+1), all Warriors starters had a negative box plus/minus score. With Curry on the floor, the Warriors were +26 in just 27 minutes of action.
The Pelicans’ defense - The New Orleans defense has improved throughout the year and was terrific in round one of the playoffs, but so far they have been unable to contain the Warriors. They have conceded 123 and 121 points in the first two games of the series, and though they have a very potent offense, it’s tough to match this kind of production. There often isn’t a lot a team can do to stop the Warriors scoring, but New Orleans will need to restrict them to a lower score if they’re to work their way back into the series.
The passing party - This series has so far seen some unbelievable passing. In Game 2, the Warriors dished out 36 dimes to the Pelicans' 33, while Game 1 saw 33 and 24, respectively. In the series, the Warriors are assisting on an extraordinary 79.3% of made baskets. The Pelicans, at 63.3%, have also been passing extremely well, though it has paled in comparison to their opposition.
Matchup to watch
Stephen Curry vs Jrue Holiday - Curry will presumably start in Game 3, and play a little more than the 27 minutes he accumulated in Game 2. As New Orleans’ best small defender, expect Holiday to take him and do as good a job as anyone in making the Warriors’ star work for his offense. Unfortunately for Holiday, there isn’t a human in the world who can stop Curry once he gets his shot going, and all he can do is make it as difficult as possible. Curry scored his 28 points on just 15 shots on Tuesday, connecting on 8-for-15 shots from the field and 5-for-10 3-point attempts. It seems he hasn’t missed a trick, and Holiday will have his work cut out minimizing his impact.
New Orleans Pelicans predicted starting lineup
PG - Rajon Rondo | SG - Jrue Holiday | SF - E’Twaun Moore | PF - Nikola Mirotic | C - Anthony Davis
Golden State Warriors predicted starting lineup
PG - Steph Curry | SG - Klay Thompson | SF - Andre Iguodala | PF - Kevin Durant | C - Draymond Green
Green has lifted his play to extraordinary levels since the playoffs tipped off, and in particular in this series. Through the first two games, he has already racked up 36 points on 60% shooting, 24 rebounds, 23 assists, four steals and four blocks.
Davis bounced back in Game 2 after a Game 1 which was a little quiet by his standards, and expect him to keep trending upwards in Game 3. He caused major problems for the Warriors the three times he matched up against them in the regular season, averaging 33 points on 59.7% shooting, 14 rebounds, 3.7 assists, 1.7 steals and 2.3 blocks a night.
The over/under points total is set as high as betting agencies are usually willing to go at 231.5 points, but this one should still go over. This series is being played at breakneck speed, and the Pelicans got their offense going in Game 2. It wouldn’t surprise to see both sides tick over 120 in this one.
This will be another highly entertaining, fast-paced, high-scoring affair. With so many talented offensive players on the floor, the box score will inevitably make for great reading, with Curry, Durant, Thompson and Davis all capable of putting up huge points numbers, Rondo and Green dishing out double figure assists every night, and Holiday doing a little bit of everything.
Many of these players are elite defensively, too, but good offense trumps good defense, and expect that to be the case once again in this game. With the Pelicans on their home court, they will take the Warriors right down to the wire, and will be able to sneak home with a win to keep the series alive. This one will be in the balance until the final minutes, with New Orleans ultimately running out 123-120 winners.
The game will be broadcast nationally on ESPN. Tip-off is at 8pm ET.