Zion Williamson shoots a lefty shot in the lane vs. Golden State

Behind the Numbers presented by Entergy: Warriors at Pelicans (5/4/21)

by Jim Eichenhofer
@Jim_Eichenhofer

A look at three key numbers related to Tuesday’s game at the Smoothie King Center between Golden State and New Orleans (7 p.m. Central, Bally Sports New Orleans, ESPN Radio New Orleans 100.3 FM):

34: Years since an NBA player averaged at least 25 points per game on 60 percent or better shooting from the field. Last week, Jayson Tatum matched a long-standing statistical feat achieved by a 1980s Boston Celtics legend; Zion Williamson has an excellent chance to do the same over the final 12 days of the 2020-21 regular season. Williamson, who is averaging 27.1 points and boasts a field-goal percentage of 61.4 in his sophomore NBA campaign, can become the first player since Hall of Fame Boston big Kevin McHale in 1986-87 to finish a season at or above 25 ppg and 60 percent accuracy. To give an idea of how far over the 60 percent mark Williamson currently sits, even if he missed his next 20 shots in a row, he would be 626/1040 from the field in 2020-21, which still would put him at 60.2 percent. Incidentally, by scoring 60 points in a historic comeback vs. San Antonio on Friday, Tatum became the first Boston player to tally 60 in a game since Larry Bird did so in 1985.

6:  New Orleans rank among the 30 NBA teams in average scoring margin in the first quarters of games this season, at plus-2.1 points, making Monday’s start a very negative aberration. Golden State is only the league’s 23rd-ranked opening-quarter club at minus-1.4 points, but powered its way to a 39-21 edge through 12 minutes last night. The Pelicans have struggled from the three-point arc overall this season (34.9 percent, ranked 26th), but those issues have somehow not affected their first quarters, when they shoot 39.9 percent from the arc, ranked No. 11 in the league. New Orleans is 29th in three-point accuracy in second quarters (31.1), a decent 18th in third quarters (36.0) and just 26th in fourth periods (33.3).

4, 4, 4: More losses Golden State (33-32), Memphis (32-32) or San Antonio (31-33) must have than New Orleans (29-36) over the remainder of the regular season for the Pelicans to catch any of those teams in the Western Conference play-in race. New Orleans’ fading postseason hopes received a major blow with Monday’s defeat to Golden State, which opened the head-to-head season series with a decisive victory. In order to leapfrog them in the standings, the Pelicans must beat the Warriors in both remaining meetings (tonight and May 14), then receive help on the scoreboard in the form of Golden State losing twice more than New Orleans in the clubs’ other five games. If Golden State earns even a split of the next two head-to-head games vs. NOLA, it’s nearly impossible for the Pelicans to catch the Warriors. Meanwhile if, for example, the Pelicans go 7-0 the rest of the way, they’d need the Grizzlies or the Spurs to go 4-4 or worse to not be headed for vacation on May 16, the final day of this regular season.

PREVIOUS GAME STARTING LINEUPS

GOLDEN STATE (33-32, 8TH IN WEST)

Monday win at New Orleans

Stephen Curry, Kent Bazemore, Andrew Wiggins, Draymond Green, Kevon Looney

Notes: This group is 6-4. … If the season ended this morning, Golden State’s current eighth-place position would mean a 7-8 play-in matchup in Portland’s Moda Center, one of the shortest trips mileage-wise from San Francisco the Warriors can take. Golden State could also be part of some very intriguing play-in matchups against the likes of the Lakers, Dallas and Memphis.

NEW ORLEANS (29-36, 11TH IN WEST)

Monday loss vs. Golden State

Lonzo Ball, Eric Bledsoe, Brandon Ingram, Zion Williamson, Steven Adams

Notes: This group is 4-2. … Steven Adams was listed as questionable prior to Monday’s game but was ruled out just before tip-off. Tuesday’s official injury report will be released before 1 p.m. Central. … New Orleans is 17-17 at home this season, meaning the Pelicans must win tonight and May 16 (vs. Lakers) to finish over .500 in the Smoothie King Center.

PELICANS KEYS TO VICTORY PRESENTED BY FANDUEL

START FASTER

New Orleans can’t afford to trail 12-1 early and 39-21 through one quarter, as was the case Monday vs. Golden State. The Warriors never lost control after seizing command from the get-go.

DETAILS ON DEFENSE

The Warriors are already a dangerous offense when Curry is hitting shots from everywhere, but the Pelicans also gave up too many easy baskets to Golden State in halfcourt sets. New Orleans needs to stay focused for all 24 seconds of possessions and not give up scores on direct cuts to the basket.

REDUCE TURNOVERS

Golden State took advantage of virtually every New Orleans mistake Monday, particularly in the first half. The Pelicans need to make sure they’re getting as many chances as possible to score, while preventing the Warriors from fast-break chances and transition threes.

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