The Pick: Warriors 107-93
Don’t get me wrong; I like the direction the Pelicans are headed in, but I just feel they are a step or two away from where the Warriors currently are. Almost all of their production comes from players 25 years of age or younger, and I’m a fan of just about everyone of them down the road.
While Anthony Davis has the ability to change games on the defensive end at the rim, the Warriors are most potent where the Pelicans are most vulnerable: on the perimeter. New Orleans is tied for the most points allowed per shot (1.30) and rank in the bottom ten in defending the three, both in terms of total makes (8.1 per game) and shooting percentage (37.5). That’s not a minor concern when opposing the No. 1 three point shooting offense (again, in terms of 3PM and 3P%) that ranks sixth in points per shot. The advantage that creates on the perimeter is huge, and it may be even greater when you consider the fact that the Pelicans are on the second night of a back-to-back while the Dubs haven’t laced up since Saturday night.
Steph Curry returned to action (concussion) late last week. While he showed some rust (2-for-9 from three and five turnovers) his Warriors still held a fourth quarter lead against a Portland Trail Blazers team that was riding a nine game winning streak. This is a team that can beat anybody when Curry is healthy, especially a team that struggles to defend guards. The Andre Iguodala (hamstring strain) injury will hurt Golden State long term in a considerable way, but Harrison Barnes is no push over and has the versatile type of offensive game that can give the Pelicans fits. Can he defend like Iguodala? No. But he can fill it up on offense, and the Warriors are more than happy to play a fast tempo style that favors Barnes. Also, with Iguodala out of action, Golden State’s top four players in terms of FTA are shooting at least 80 percent from the stripe, and easy points have a way of winning games.
The Warriors have the advantage in the backcourt with the Super Splash Brothers being more consistent than Eric Gordon and Jrue Holliday. Andrew Bogut is likely to miss this game while serving a one game suspension, but I’m not sure New Orleans can take advantage. David Lee figures to defend Anthony Davis (he’s an inch shorter, but with an extra 20 pounds of muscle, I don’t think this is a big edge either way) leaving the Warriors to use a combination of players (Jermaine O’Neal and Marreese Speights primarily) to defend Jason Smith (a limited seven-footer who averages 27 minutes but has yet to record more than eight rebounds in a game this season). If you’re taking the Pelicans in this one you’re banking on a massive day from Davis, and while he has produced some big stat games he’s been far from dominant of late (two double-doubles over the last two weeks, coming against teams with a 6-24 record). This is a guard oriented league, so I’ll take my chances with an explosive backcourt over a potentially elite big man.
Fun Fact: The Warriors are 0-3 on the second night of a back-to-back and 8-3 otherwise. The Pelicans’ last back-to-back was concluded with a loss to the previously winless Utah Jazz in a game in which Anthony Davis exploded (29 and 15) but the Jazz scored 111 points ( 22.5 points over their season average).