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Bloggers Roundtable: On To New Orleans
Five Warriors Bloggers Give Their Take on the Series Thus Far
With the first two games in the books, five Warriors bloggers give their take on the series thus far.
After defending home court and winning the first two games of their first round matchup against the Pelicans, the Warriors are headed to New Orleans for Game 3 on Thursday night. In the meantime, we thought we’d check in with some Warriors bloggers to get their take on the series thus far. Here’s what they had to say:
1. What’s your biggest takeaway from the first two games?
Adam Lauridsen, Fast Break: My strongest first impression -- other than remembering how much I love the back-and-forth intensity of playoff basketball -- is that the Warriors are still rounding into post-season form. They played well at the end of the season but had a number of games that were easy wins. They got used to running up scores despite less-than-perfect execution. Several teams also folded once the Warriors opened a big lead. The playoffs are different, the Pelicans will punish the Warriors for mistakes and fight to the end. Kerr and the players are adjusting to the more intense setting, but the team isn't quite there yet.
Grant Hughes, Bleacher Report: That the Warriors' defense isn't going anywhere.
We've seen the offense explode for quarters at a time, but there have been scoring droughts, too—many of which have happened as a result of some surprisingly sharp defensive schemes from the Pelicans. In contrast, the Dubs defense has remained just as stingy as you'd expect after ranking first in the league all season long. That's a good sign, as there'll continue to be periods of missed jumpers and, of course, turnovers.
Through whatever offensive inconsistencies arise going forward, Golden State's defense will be there as a bail-out.
Steve Berman, Bay Area Sports Guy: When the Warriors are in the mood to defend, look out. We saw it in the first quarter of Game 1, but even more in the second half of Game 2. When Golden State's best defensive lineup is on the floor (and that always includes Draymond Green and Andrew Bogut), even Anthony Davis has a difficult time scoring.
Andy Liu, Golden State of Mind: Anthony Davis is single-handedly wrecking the Golden State Warriors on defense. The numbers, because they are not Omer Asik-filtered, show the Warriors are shooting about the same percentage at the rim as they did in the regular season (66.7 to 62.9 percent). But Davis has blocked essentially every Warrior inside and is causing Andrew Bogut and Draymond Green to flip up hurried layups and Klay Thompson second-guessing himself in the paint. As for Stephen Curry? Davis is freakishly long enough to contest his release while staying back, allowing just enough space to force midrange jumpers. The Warriors are combating this by running Davis off off-ball screens but it's a testament to Davis, only 22 years old and in his first postseason series, that he has struck so much fear into the league's best team.
Jordan Ramirez, WarriorsWorld: We’re watching the next great Hall-of-Fame big man in Anthony Davis. It’s his first postseason, but you’d hardly know it watching his first two performances at the most raucous crowd in the NBA. The Warriors have their own polarizing player in Curry, but Davis’ dominance is of such a different mold that it’s a joy watching both of them on the floor at the same time. When Davis gets it on the low block, at the elbow or anywhere near the rim it’s nearly impossible to stop him. On the defensive end, with his 7’ 5.5” wingspan, unheralded speed and 7’ frame, the term “restricted area” refers to the entire paint. At only 22, it’s almost unfair to think of how much more he can improve, and with some roster – and possibly a coach – tweak, there’s no telling how many championships or MVP’s he could win over the course of his career. Curry, along with other unique talents such as LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, are players that go beyond the realm of possibility on the basketball floor. Davis is now in that category, and the basketball world is seeing what he can do to the best defense in the league. The Warriors are “throwing the kitchen sink” at Davis, as Steve Kerr put it, and he’s still putting up scoring outputs higher than his season average. Luckily for the Warriors, the rest of the Pelicans simply aren’t enough.
2. Relative to their typical level of performance, which player has had the best series thus far?
Adam Lauridsen, Fast Break: No one has played above their usual level, and that's a good thing for the Warriors. They've been good enough to open a 2-0 lead and there's still room for improvement. That said, Draymond Green's defense against Anthony Davis has been special. Green has been DPOY-level amazing all season, but the last two games have been a good reminder of just how much he changes the game.
Grant Hughes, Bleacher Report: The lift Leandro Barbosa gave the Warriors in Game 2 was as critical as it was surprising. If not for his 12 points in 15 minutes (most of which came in a desperately needed second-quarter surge), it's entirely possible the Warriors would have lost that contest.
Everybody knows Barbosa can score in bunches, so an outburst like that wasn't totally unexpected. But coming off a season that saw him shuttle in and out of the rotation, it's safe to say nobody was counting on him to swing the momentum of a playoff game at a critical juncture.
Nice timing, LB.
Steve Berman, Bay Area Sports Guy: Other than his performance from the foul line, Andrew Bogut has been close to perfect in this series. His ability to cover for teammates in the paint has always been a strength, but the number of messes he cleaned up in the first two games was remarkable. We often talk about Green's accomplishments that don't show up in the box score, but Bogut's knowledge -- not just what opponents will do, but his own teammates' tendencies, is critical to this team's success (and why he's on the floor when it matters in the fourth quarter, even when the Pelicans go small).
Bonus: Leandro Barbosa hasn't had a great series, because he provided nothing in Game 1. But after missing all those layups on Saturday, his resurgence in Game 2 -- a performance that helped turn the game around for the Warriors -- is the most surprising occurrence so far.
Andy Liu, Golden State of Mind: Besides the obvious Anthony Davis answer? Draymond Green. He's played through two rolls of an ankle in Game 2, another lower leg injury in Game, and along with Andrew Bogut, has carried the Warriors defense through two games. He held Davis to 0-5 shooting in the fourth quarter of Game 2, had a huge crowd-raising stretch where he nailed a three capped with an alley-oop to Andre Iguodala two possessions later. The heartbeat of the Warriors, he has been their best player so far.
Jordan Ramirez, WarriorsWorld: If the national scene didn’t know who Draymond Green was before this series, they do now. Even those who questioned the obvious skillset of Green have to be impressed not only by his consistency on the offensive end, but his ferocity guarding the best big in the league. This isn’t new to Warriors fans, who’ve seen Green guard everyone from Chris Paul to LeBron James over the course of the season, but limiting Davis to 0-for-5 shooting, six points and three rebounds in all 12 minutes of the final quarter in Game 2 was simply special. The fact that Green has rolled his ankle more than once throughout the series shows everyone how to truly “goon up.” Not only is he one of the best interviews in the league, but his physicality, awareness and versatility makes him undoubtedly one of the best defenders in league as well. The “heartbeat” moniker may have seemed premature in its infancy stages, but when this team needs a pulse it’s Green who ignites them.
3. What has surprised you most through two games?
Adam Lauridsen, Fast Break: The Pelicans have been a worthy opponent and should only improve after this season. They fought for their lives to make the playoffs, arrived banged up and had to play in the league's toughest building, and they still gave the Warriors two scares. The loss of composure at the end of Game 2 was the first time the series looked like a typical 1 vs. 8 match-up. I'll be curious to see how the Pelicans bounce back and if they can sustain this level of play.
Grant Hughes, Bleacher Report: I didn't expect New Orleans to get Anthony Davis the number of touches he's seen so far—not because Davis doesn't deserve an alpha role on offense, but because the Pellies spent most of the year failing to get him the rock.
Especially in fourth quarters.
It's been particularly encouraging (if you're a Pelicans fan) to see Davis getting the ball at the elbow, where his one-dribble moves are unpredictable and tough to stop. Draymond Green has been effective in that one-on-one matchup, so the results haven't been great for New Orleans. But the process has been the right one.
Steve Berman, Bay Area Sports Guy: Two things stand out.
First, Anthony Davis has been able to make these games close, almost by himself. He's putting up ridiculous numbers (30.5 ppg, 8.5 rpg, 3.0 bpg, along with countless shots he's either altered or deterred the Warriors from taking with his mere presence alone), but he's getting barely any help. Eric Gordon (19.5 ppg) has knocked down some threes, but otherwise he's a one-dimensional player. Quincy Pondexter scored 20 points in Game 1 and was absent in Game 2. Tyreke Evans (26.7% from the floor) and Ryan Anderson (18.2%) are key offensive cogs for this team, and both are hurt and/or ineffective.
Second, the Warriors were held to 97 points at home by a team that was 22nd in defensive rating during the regular season. Sure, the Pelicans play at a slower-than-average pace, but it was surprising to see the Warriors struggle so much on the offensive end in the first and third quarters on Monday.
Andy Liu, Golden State of Mind: New Orleans' spacing. Eric Gordon is on fire. Norris Cole is nailing shots at times. Anthony Davis is a stretch-everything. Ryan Anderson commands attention the moment he steps on the court despite being unable to move. Quincy Pondexter is your quintessential 3-and-D wing role player. I expected the Warriors switching defense to shut this down but they've miscommunicated a lot especially when having to worry about, you guessed it, Anthony Davis. It's an issue that can be cleaned up but surprising to see from the league's best defense.
Jordan Ramirez, WarriorsWorld: Even with Green’s stout defense and Andrew Bogut just waiting for whoever dares enter the paint, the Pelicans aren’t having nightmares about the best defense in the league. They’ve shown great effort in trying to break the team the led the league in defensive efficiency this past season (98.2). Anthony Davis is averaging 30.5 points on 49 percent shooting through two games, but admits that fatigue was an issue at the end of Game 2. His numbers might dip just slightly over the next series of games, but it’s the contributions from his teammates that are most surprising. Eric Gordon is reminding everyone why he was once considered the future great 2-guard of the NBA, Norris Cole is reminding all on Basketball Twitter why he’s more than just a coattail and Tyreke Evans is displaying the brute force that makes him a handful to guard. The Warriors defense isn’t slipping, and with Curry/Thompson/Iguodala/Green/Bogut in the game the defense is close to unbreakable, but the Pelicans haven’t been playing like the eighth seed. They expect to win or at least compete down the stretch, which is a stark difference from most teams this season that came to Oracle already folding. Despite their youth, the growth of this young Pelicans team is clear.
4. What adjustments, if any, should the Warriors make as the series heads to New Orleans?
Adam Lauridsen, Fast Break: Other than improving execution -- which I suspect is always an adjustment Kerr wants to make -- I'd be curious to see the team try Bogut at the high post more for screens. They've been playing him below the foul line quite a bit to help screen guys off baseline curls, but Curry, in particular, benefits from Bogut creating space at the three-point line. It also may give fans the Curry/Davis match-up off a switch, which fans were dying to see late in Game 2 before Kerr called a time-out.
Grant Hughes, Bleacher Report: It's pretty simple from here on out: Golden State just has to slow down, trust the offensive system and resist the temptation to go for the home run on offense. The turnovers and uncharacteristically stagnant periods of offense we've seen to this point have stemmed largely from the Warriors' desire to give the Oracle crowd something spectacular to cheer about.
In New Orleans, it'll be about keeping the fans quiet.
Steve Berman, Bay Area Sports Guy: Draymond Green was the hero of Game 2, but he rolled his ankle twice in the first half. Steve Kerr said it wasn't a serious injury, but the Pelicans aren't the Spurs. There has to be a way to win two more games against a No. 8 seed without Green having to play 42 minutes per game...yes, even though Green is the only guy capable of defending Davis without help. They'll definitely need their "heartbeat" to play 40+ minutes in future playoff rounds, so if there's any way to keep him at Curry's minutes (37 or so), Kerr should push to make that happen.
Andy Liu, Golden State of Mind: Make shots and limit turnovers. Stephen Curry is 7-22 in two games. He's also shooting 50 percent after the All-Star Break. Credit the Pelicans for making him work, hitting him off the ball and on the ball but just wait on the Stephen Curry explosion. It's going to happen sooner or later. Probably now.
Jordan Ramirez, WarriorsWorld: Nothing systematically needs to change heading into New Orleans. The Warriors are the better team and haven’t played particularly well in their first two games. If anything, the Warriors can limit their turnovers, the bench can continue to give that extra spark and the team can start hitting the shots they normally make. “The energy was there, but the focus was sporadic,” said Steve Kerr following Game 2, and that’s absolutely been the case. The talent disparity is clear, but the Warriors haven’t unleashed their type of game that made them a 67-win team in the regular season. Stephen Curry is 7-for-22 in two games from deep and has only shot eight free throws (Tyreke Evans has shot 14), both of which should flip once they land in The Big Easy.
5. What do you expect from Game 3?
Adam Lauridsen, Fast Break: It'll be a fascinating clash of momentum. The Pelicans are returning home, so they should get a boost. On the other hand, the Warriors just closed out a game in decisive fashion, leaving the Pelicans visibly frustrated and disorganized. Is home cooking enough to overcome the Warriors' improving execution? We'll see. I expect a game of big runs, and Curry should finally get it going from behind the arc.
Grant Hughes, Bleacher Report: On the one hand, New Orleans has been competitive in both games to this point, so you'd expect that to happen again in Game 3. And going home would theoretically provide an extra boost.
On the other, it feels like there's bound to be a mental letdown for the Pelicans. After all, they just threw the best punch they had in Game 2...and lost by 10. Toss in the fact that the Warriors haven't yet played a remotely complete game (which you can bet Kerr has pointed out), and it feels like Game 3 could be the end-to-end blowout we expected from at least one of the games in Oakland.
I think it's likely we'll see the best effort from the Warriors so far in Game 3.
Steve Berman, Bay Area Sports Guy: A Warriors rout. Golden State's defense has at times been stifling, but the Warriors have made more than their fair share of unforced errors in the form of turnovers and missed free throws. They almost seem to be working their way back to top-flight execution, which isn't extremely surprising after the last month of the season (when almost every game mattered more to their opponents than the Warriors themselves). The team with the NBA's best record performed extremely well all season in so-called "statement games." There's no better statement they could make on Thursday night than thrashing New Orleans and setting up a series sweep.
Andy Liu, Golden State of Mind: I expect a massive Curry game, keeping a Warriors team afloat in the first half in front of a raucous Pellies crowd and then delivering down the stretch to strike the final nail in the New Orleans coffin. Steve Kerr talked about this young team making mistakes, chasing hero shots and careless turnovers. Sometimes we forget that this is Kerr's first year as head coach and this team hasn't been favored before. Perhaps experience will play a role later on but I expect a much measured performance (less hero shots, less antsy passing) leading to a Game 3 win.
Jordan Ramirez, WarriorsWorld: Curry is due for one of his games: pull up threes in transition, quick buckets coming off high screens, another dribbling clinic as well as one dance leading into a timeout. The Smooth King Center crowd will be a riot, but nothing a handful of Curry baskets can’t help calm down. The plethora of Pelicans’ guards have limited Curry’s production from deep, but given the extra day off and the way Curry loves to show out when the lights are shining brightest, it was only a matter of time. An MVP-like performance is coming.