(Photo credit: USA TODAY Sports via Reuters/Derick E. Hingle)
Golden State have the first of three chances to eliminate New Orleans after storming to a 118-92 victory in Game 4 on Sunday. Kevin Durant had a playoff-season high of 38 points to go with nine rebounds and five assists as the Warriors jumped out to a 17-4 lead en route to a wire-to-wire victory.
Stephen Curry added 23 points while Draymond Green again flirted with a triple-double before finishing with eight points, nine rebounds and nine assists. Green also had four of Golden State’s 11 steals as the Warriors accumulated a 21-12 edge in points off turnovers as they forced the Pelicans into 19 mistakes while committing just 11.
Anthony Davis did what he could for New Orleans, totaling 26 points and 12 rebounds as he posted a double-double for the eighth time in as many postseason games. Rajon Rondo was held to a postseason-low six assists and has made just four of 21 shots over the last two games.
The Pelicans have not won a game when facing playoff elimination in four series since moving to the Western Conference in 2005. That includes a first-round sweep at the hands of the Warriors in 2015.
If the Pelicans do buck that trend, though, Game 6 will be at New Orleans on Thursday night.
Three keys to the game
The "Hamptons 5" deliver for Golden State - While not as catchy as the "Fab Five" or even "Voltron," as well as being one shy of the "Infinity Stones," Warriors coach Steve Kerr's decision to restore Andre Iguodala back in the starting lineup after bringing him off the bench in Game 3 following Curry's re-insertion to the first five paid off in a big way.
It was the first time Durant, Curry, Iguodala, Green and Klay Thompson all started together, a quintet known in NBA circles as the "Death" lineup, and they all but killed off the Pelicans. They played together just 18 minutes but outscored New Orleans by 26 points in that short span, most notably starting the game with a 17-4 burst that sent a message they were taking this game very seriously.
Pelicans get away from it all - After a 26-point loss at home that has the Pelicans on the edge of elimination, the temptation is to practice harder and work out that frustration, correct the mistakes seen on film and make sure everyone on the same page. Coach Alvin Gentry, though, went in the opposite direction and gave his players Monday off.
"I thought it was important. We originally had a practice scheduled but we do have guys that are playing heavy minutes," Gentry told the New Orleans Times-Picayune. "(Nikola Mirotic), (Anthony Davis) and Jrue (Holiday) -- really all the starters are playing real heavy minutes. I thought it would be a good idea today to let their minds rest, their bodies rest."
The numbers bear out Gentry's feel of his team. The Pelicans' starting five of Davis, Rondo, Jrue Holiday, Nikola Mirotic and E'Twaun Moore have played together 21 more minutes than any other five-man group in the postseason, and of those five, only Moore is averaging less than 35 minutes.
Warriors can match NBA playoff record for consecutive home wins - Golden State have not lost in the postseason at Oracle Arena since Cleveland completed their comeback from 3-1 down to win the 2016 NBA Finals. The Warriors have ripped off 14 straight wins since, and if they beat the Pelicans on Tuesday night, they would match the NBA record established by the Chicago Bulls over the 1989/90 and 1990/91 seasons, with the latter ending with the first of Michael Jordan's six titles.
Golden State have averaged 117.6 points during their 14-game run and outscored opponents by 15.9 points per game.
Matchup to watch
New Orleans' starting five vs Golden State's starting five - What is it about facing the "Hamptons 5" or "Death" that makes it so difficult? It is about the team speed of the Warriors on the defensive end and their ability to switch defensively on screens at every position on the floor.
Gentry clearly identified the problem to the Times-Picayune after the Game 4 loss, explaining "That lineup is a really good defensive lineup. They have the ability to switch everything and they got all 6-foot-7 guys out there other than Steph, and Steph is 6-3. ... It's a long lineup and affords so many opportunities to switch and try to disrupt our offense. We got to make sure we do a better job of attacking."
The Pelicans also did not help themselves by shooting a horrid 15.4 percent (four for 26) from 3-point range, but while the Warriors have an embarrassment of riches with that starting five, Kerr also noted it means little unless they are as focused as they were in the 18 minutes they dominated together.
“Anytime we’ve been in any danger over the years, we’ve gone to this lineup — whether it’s as a starting group or extra minutes,” he told the San Francisco Chronicle. “Obviously, the lineup worked, but it’s not about the lineup — it’s about how hard guys play and how focused they are.”
New Orleans Pelicans projected starting lineup
PG - Rajon Rondo | SG - Jrue Holiday | C - Anthony Davis | SF - E'Twaun Moore | PF - Nikola Mirotic
Golden State Warriors projected starting lineup
PG - Stephen Curry | SG - Klay Thompson | C - Draymond Green | SF - Kevin Durant | PF - Andre Iguodala
Durant has scored at least 22 points in all nine of Golden State's playoff games while averaging 28.4 overall to go with 8.1 rebounds and 4.8 assists per game. While he is shooting just 28.1 percent from 3-point range, Durant is making 48.7 percent of his overall shots and notched his third 30-point game of the postseason in Sunday's win.
For a frontcourt player shooting only 40.9 percent, Green is still a must-play in DFS given his low cost in relation to his all-around numbers. He has averaged 13.8 points, 11.3 rebounds, 10.3 assists. 2.0 steals and 1.5 blocks in this series while taking less than ten shots per game.
Davis is coming off his worst shooting game of the playoffs after making just eight of 22 shots Sunday, the first time he shot under 45 percent in their eight games. In the six games following a sub-40 percent shooting night, Davis has averaged 30.3 points, 12.2 rebounds and 2.7 steals while shooting 49.6 percent and hitting nine of 18 from beyond the arc.
Holiday is still a viable all-around option for DFS if Rondo's poor shooting scares you. The off guard is averaging 23.3 points, 5.8 assists and 5.1 rebounds in the postseason and has averaged 21.3 points, 7.3 rebounds and 5.3 assists in his last three games after struggling in the series opener.
The Warriors are 11.5-point favorites to finish this series, with the line moving one-half point in New Orleans' direction since it opened. While Golden State is 7-2 in the playoffs, they have done no favors for bettors dating back to the regular season, covering in just three of their last ten home games and are 4-14 against the spread in their last 18 games following a straight up victory.
The Warriors are also 8-20 versus the number in their last 28 games against above-.500 teams and 7-18-1 in the last 26 when coming off a victory against the spread.
New Orleans have covered in six of their last seven road games and are 11-2 against the spread in their last 13 overall. They are also 10-2 against the number in their last 12 versus Pacific Division opponents and 20-7 in their last 27 conference clashes.
The over/under has slipped two points to 227, but the over has hit six times in the last seven meetings in Golden State and has a 10-4 mark in the last 14 games between the teams. The over is 6-1-1 in Golden State's last eight home games and 9-4 in New Orleans' last 13 when facing Pacific Division opponents.
The under, though, is 6-2 in the Pelicans' last eight second-round playoff games and 6-2 in the last eight when the Pelicans are coming off a loss.
While it is easy to understand and even support Gentry's decision to get off the basketball court Monday, it is hard to shake the feeling that Golden State's decision to use their "Death" lineup is "the sound of inevitability" as Agent Smith said in "The Matrix."
Even with Davis putting up spectacular numbers, Green is making him work for all those points and rebounds, and the cumulative effect is taking its toll as evidenced by his poor shooting numbers in Game 4. If Rondo cannot finish in the paint, everything breaks down, and two baskets in Tuesday night's game, even on two shots, will not get it done.
When focused offensively in this postseason, Golden State have cruised to 110 points. They are 6-0 when they reached that mark compared to 1-2 when they do not. What may be most worrisome for the Pelicans is the Warriors are due for a good shooting night since the Warriors have not hit 50 percent of their shots since their Game 3 win over the Spurs.
It is the longest such run of sub-par shooting for them this season, which only fuels the belief it is coming, especially when considering Thompson is 18 for 55 in the last three games.
One can wonder how this series and New Orleans' season would have played out had DeMarcus Cousins been healthy all season, but the silver lining is the Pelicans have an offense they can use around Davis should Cousins walk in free agency this summer. The bad news is they will get a head start on pondering that momentous decision as the Warriors wrap up this series with a 119-103 victory.
The game will be televised nationally on TNT and nationally in Canada on TSN1/3. Tip-off time is 10:30 pm EDT.
Want to share your opinion? Why not Write For Us?