Warriors 109 Pelicans 98 — Game 4

One sweep down, another coming up. This series between the Warriors and Pelicans played out almost exactly as scripted:    

Anthony Davis v. Draymond Green:  The central matchup of the series. The great Anthony Davis was… almost phenomenal. The also great Draymond Green ceded him the advantage in points, but did he cede him the advantage in anything else? Did he cede him the advantage in WINNING? Draymond battled the much taller superstar tooth and nail for everything, gave him nothing easy. How many alley-oops did Draymond beat Davis to the spot on? How many offensive putbacks did Dray allow Davis? How many postups? How many rebounds? (A quick check: Dray outrebounded Davis 51 – 44 in the series.)

On the defensive end, Davis of course had the edge in rim protection. But Draymond had the edge in his ability to switch onto anyone and everyone on the perimeter. A major difference between the two players that was very evident in this game 4, when Davis was several times isolated against Stephen Curry, and had his hair lit on fire.

Bottom line, the Pelicans did not get enough edge out of this matchup to win a game.

Playoff length: Or rather, it’s absence. The Pelicans simply didn’t have any defenders to put on Curry or Klay, and paid the price. Monty did try Pondexter on Curry, but he’s not a premier defender, nor even very good against quicker players. I think Pondexter also might have gotten injured in Game 3, as he didn’t show up for this game – he hadn’t even attempted a shot by half time –  and was benched for Dante Cunningham in the fourth.

Klay didn’t even notice Eric Gordon.

Tyreke Evans: Klay Thompson and Bogut simply ate Evans alive in this game (2-10), and throughout the series. How many times did he blindly drive into a charge? How many times did he get his shot blocked? Can’t shoot, can’t drive left, constitutionally averse to setting up his teammates, worthless on defense. I think he’s an extraordinarily bad and toxic basketball player whom the Pelicans must separate from Anthony Davis if they ever want to have a prayer of improving their team.

Jrue Holiday and Ryan Anderson: Anderson managed to put together a nice offensive performance in game 3, but both these guys were too rusty to make a consistent impact.

Monty Williams: Didn’t have the guts to ditch Asik and play all-out Nellieball. With no perimeter defenders, didn’t commit to blitzing Curry on screens, and making the Warriors’ secondary players beat his team. Didn’t play either Hack-a-Bogut or Hack-a-Iggy in obvious situations. Didn’t have his team prepared to foul down the stretch in game 3.

Didn’t have a clue. This was his last game as Pelicans head coach.

Notes:

Curry: That Game 3 shot didn’t really shock me, did it shock any of you? He could make that shot with his eyes shut.

Will Steve Kerr ever come to grips with the fact that he has one of the best closers in the history of the game, and commit to a simple isolation in end of game of situations? Or will he continue to run motion sets and let defenses play keep away from Curry on the last play? The moment of truth is fast approaching.

In this game, I got a kick out of watching Curry torture one of the game’s best defenders, Anthony Davis. Got him inside with a quick shot under the basket, without leaving his feet. Got him at the foul line with a pump fake. And got him at the three point line with a step back.

We’re watching possibly the greatest offensive genius to ever play the game. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I lived in the Boston area and watched every single game that Larry Bird played for three years during his prime. And Stephen Curry is better than Larry Bird.

Michael Jordan? Jordan did it with unparalleled athleticism, size and strength. This is something different.

You need to have a plan for this man. You either need a Scottie Pippen and an ingenious defensive idea, as Gregg Popovich has, or you need an all-out blitz, as the Clippers committed to in the last post-season. If you do a Monty Williams, you’re going to get roasted alive.

On the defensive end, Curry had his hands full with Eric Gordon. Look, Curry is giving great effort on the defensive end. He executes the game plans flawlessly, has an extraordinary defensive IQ, a great ability to come up with steals and rebounds, and a lot of grit. But can we dispense with the nonsense that he’s a great defender and holds opposing point guards to 37% shooting, all by his lonesome? Stephen Curry is a team defender, on a great defensive team.

Steve Kerr made the strategic decision to take Tyreke Evans out of the game, and live with what Eric Gordon gave Curry. Gordon gave him plenty, but it was the right decision.

When it comes time for Tony Parker or Chris Paul or — Allah willing — Kyrie Irving, Stephen Curry will be hidden.

The Achilles Heels: Shaun Livingston is a decent complementary player when surrounded by four stars, and he had a good fourth quarter run in Game 3. At the expense of Andre Iguodala. And if Iggy continues to display the lack of confidence in his offense and at the line that he displayed in this series, Livingston could very well supplant him in the crunchtime unit. Particularly if the Warriors come up against a demonically brilliant coach who is not averse to the dark art of hacking. (Any of those on the horizon?)

But Shaun Livingston as a leader of the second unit is a whole ‘nother story. As I read the Popcorn Machine Game Flows, Livingston was -18 for the series when “running” the second unit with Curry resting. -13 Game 1, +7 Game 2, -9 Game 3, -3 in Game 4.

And according to the announcers in this game, the Warriors bench unit as a whole had a negative plus/minus through the first three games.

I have been harping on this throughout the season, and getting a lot of “scoreboard, bitch” responses for my trouble. I’ll get them again now, and again in the next series, which will also be a sweep.

But what about when the Men in Black come knocking?

37 Responses to Warriors 109 Pelicans 98 — Game 4

  1. Not that +/- is a perfect stat, but the +/- differential between the starters and the second unit is terrifyingly worrisome…

    -Green +77
    -Curry +50
    -Thompson +38
    -Barnes +35 (perhaps proving +/- isn’t a great stat)
    -Bogut +9
    -Barbosa +4
    -Livingston -17 (uh oh)
    -Iguodala -23 (double uh oh)

    Might we see some Justin Holiday in the next round?

    (Source: TK http://blogs.mercurynews.com/kawakami/2015/04/25/warriors-first-round-fly-strong-opening-salvo-warning-rest-league-fixes-make-deeper-rounds/)

  2. “He could make that shot with his eyes shut.”

    Actually I saw a closeup photo and his eyes were shut!

  3. Great piece. LOL — “Klay didn’t even notice Eric Gordon” and “Curry lit Davis hair on fire”, how true.

    Maybe Kerr still don’t know the Genius Curry is histories Greatest Closer, but MoS was smart enuff to get the ball immediately to Curry for the tying 3 with time running out, sending the game into OT. Surely Kerr is as smart as Mo.

  4. Reason why Leonard won DPOY — he won the Championship last season, according to Draymond Green — “he deserved to win it, he’s a champion”.

    • Perfectly gracious thing for Dray to say, but this is Draymond. The loss to Kawhi goes into the Motivation In Box anyway. For a player who makes a living with high-effort over-achievement, that’s not going to work out well for the rest of the league.

      You had to love Dray’s effort and smarts in Game 4. He did what he could (prevent alley-oops and drives, move bodies under the board, put the clamps on every exposed ball within 10 feet of his space), but didn’t bother trying to block AD’s outside shots. A brilliant performance, almost entirely off-stats. A friggin rock-solid foundation for the Warriors.

      Poor David Lee. He’s merely AllStar-good at his job. Draymond is awesome in ways that will never add up to an AllStar appearance.

      Just a thought: The margin of victory was less than half of Dray’s unusually high points total in this game. Next year the team replaces the minus players with plus players. Next year Kerr figures out he has a scoring wizard at the top.

      What happens then?

      • Draymond probably not an All-Star selection as a starting 4. More likely as a starting 3?

        At some point during these play-offs, Curry will just take over at critical junctions, or rather his team mates will make it so.

        I noticed Kerr drawing out the final play in the OT in the sideline huddle. Gentry was not included, and was actually 10 ft away looking the other way.

  5. Thanx Feltbot. So another sweep coming? I assume we’ll get a preview so we’ll know what to look for. Part will hinge on Conley’s health.

    Hard to know what to make of the NO series. There was enough sketchy play to raise questions, though they obviously played well enough to sweep. And maybe the lapses will wake them up. I regret not seeing other players step up. Every time I start to have warm feelings about Bogut he backs down. They couldn’t have tried to get him going more on offense to prepare him for the next series? Then, of course, the subs.

    But I suspect this was a hard series to get focus. Good tuneup for Klay and Steph at any rate, and maybe that’s all that matters.

  6. Bball Pendant

    So Green is a better defender than Davis b/c Davis couldn’t stop Curry:

    “A major difference between the two players that was very evident in this game 4, when Davis was several times isolated against Stephen Curry, and had his hair lit on fire.”

    … but to stop Curry:

    “You either need a Scottie Pippen and an ingenious defensive idea, as Gregg Popovich has, or you need an all-out blitz, as the Clippers committed to in the last post-season.”

    Both of these statements can’t be true. (I think the second is true.)

    • A Scottie Pippen. Hm. Could a Draymond stop Curry? I think so.

      • If Dray could stop Curry, so could Pippen. Or Tony Allen.

        • The last couple of times the Ws faced the Grizzlies, Tony Allen was on the shelf. The upcoming series will be different.

          I expect Bogut on ZBo, Dray on Gasol, like in their last meeting. And while I’m confident the Ws will ultimately prevail, winning the series is going to require others to step up. A Ws series win is absolutely NOT fore-ordained.

    • the opposing team’s objective is winning four games in a series. limiting the efficiency of the woeyr offense is obviously the critical goal, not ‘stopping curry’ in and of itself. all a defense or individual defender can do is raise the level of difficulty of the plays curry and his ‘mates have to execute to score, sufficient to give the opponent a chance. curry has demonstrated his ability to execute the difficult and seemingly improbable plays, and the challenge is maintaining pressure on him and the woeyr offense, some of which has to come from scoring against the woeyr defense. we should expect some of the coming teams to scrape curry against picks multiple times in a possession when they have the ball.

  7. Only prediction I’m confident enough to make is GS in the WC finals. I’d go so far as to say its carved in stone, but I’ll leave that stuff for the likes of God, Moses, and Feltbot. Hope you don’t blurt out the endings to books when you see people reading them.

    Klay wasn’t on his “A” game parts of the series, and I feel he can perform better and more consistently, which they’re going to need if the team is to go all the way. This isn’t a dig at Klay- he averaged 25 per- just an acknowledgement of how far he’s come. Curry can tend to eclipse guys

    I’ve tried to enjoy cigars, I’m just not capable of it

    • FeltbotsFakeGirlfriend

      Please no more carved in stone predictions. The last one you made about the Thunder was an epic failure.

    • re cigars, enjoyment of: it’s more symbolic than actual. Cigars stink and taste nasty, and the Freudian implications are so obvious that even Freud had to defend his addiction: “Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.”

      “Fire up a cigar” is a symbolic phrase representing complete satisfaction. It’s kinda dated. Maybe we could come up with something more modern, like “I fired off a couple of happy tweets.”

  8. “I want to thoroughly hate these Direct TV talking horse commercials…”

    Yeah. I feel exactly the same way. Those manipulative MFs at Direct TV got me, darn it. I can hardly wait to see that girl again.

  9. “Never give a sucker an even break.”

    – W.C Fields

  10. took a small bet with my buddy during beer/cigar is not a cigar night, watched the warriors cover the spread and have myself a jameson, hope to upgrade that with one or two bets to three jamesons and trade that for some good single malt, lagavulin if i feel softly smokey, lafroaig if i feel smoked hard or some arran if i feel the genlteness of wine barrel finish.
    problem is, he ain’t betting memphis, but would go all in with spurs.

  11. attrition continues to grind down the potential opponents. should Mem be able to finish Por without conley (his replacement udrih will be going on a bum ankle), at best he’d be playing with two impairments, his foot and a face mask, for the next series.

    Goose l.g., in response to your comment on the previous thread about ‘supporting casts’, and davis lacking one. there was the expected fuss over the fourth quarter come back in game three, but it didn’t rate as a shocker, given the combination of the NO offense and coaching, and the unprecedented combinations kerr and staff have. this is the first season with curry, thompson, green all in their prime. a twenty point deficit for them is the equivalent of about twelve for an average n.b.a. team. suppose nash had a two way wing who could shoot 3’s like thompson on his best Phx team, and stoudemire played elite defense. few leads would be safe.

    • Let’s not leave out Love’s shoulder dislocation. At this point there’s barely a healthy challenger standing.

      • lots of variables in shoulder dislocations — the least severe leave soreness and inflammation with activity resumed in a week. should love require several weeks, can Cle get past either Chi or Atl without him, including a game or two without smith vs. Chi. we won’t know until the Chi series, at the earliest, but in the west, Mem appears to be the slightest of the first round survivors, making GS’s path the easiest of the western teams. LA, Hou, SA all being seeded in the opposite half of the draw from the results of their regular season finales smoothed things considerably, even before conley’s multiple fractures. SA must find a way past LA, then Hou with a dinged up parker.

      • cosmicballoon

        The attrition just brings into clearer focus how important Bogut, Curry, Thompson and Iggy’s low minutes have been this season. The fact that Curry didn’t have to play in 17 4th quarters means that he avoided the fouls and the beating that usually happens in a tight game. Same with the rest of the guys — the blowouts led to fewer injuries.

      • felt, if Warriors win championship, they have earned it every bit with sustained high level play from game I of the season. Clippers and Rockets are healthy. Kevin Love actually might come back for finals. Spurs are as healthy as they could ever get from now on Duncan era. May be, the depth of warriors, work of training staff and Kerr’s masterful management of minutes have something to do with warriors being healthy, all more than luck.

        BTW, thanks for the recap, another excellent piece.

      • Feltbot: Voulgaris said in one of his tweets something to the effect that if we thought injuries were bad this year, wait until next. Any idea what he was talking about?

        I have no doubt that Olynyk wasn’t trying to dislocate Love’s shoulder or hurt him in any way. Rather he was trying to wrap him up by holding his arms in a way that looked unintentional, which is illegal and was intentional. We see Bogut and others do similar. At the worst, this is a flagrant 1, but even that is debatable. But with the size and leverage involved with the two players, something has to give.

        I wish there were some way to clean the game up simply so we don’t see so many players going down. Elbows to the face, trips (Denver and Curry), etc. have no place in the game.

        One of my worst memories is what Zebo did to Brandon Rush years ago, blowing out his knee by undercutting him. But I don’t think he was trying to anything dirty at all. He was simply thoughtless and reckless. And that memory will haunt me this upcoming series. There needs to be some intelligent discussion about what is acceptable and what is not. Jim Barnett made the point that you never undercut a player in the air below the waste.

        But a lot of injuries have nothing to do with malice or recklessness, but the strain of the game, the way it’s played now.

        Maybe we should change the name of the game to Last Man Standing.

        • HV was referring to the league instituting testing for HGH. Closing the barn door after the horse is gone, if you ask me. The number one guy I’d have liked to see tested was Michael Jordan.

          It would sad if HV is right, that injuries will rise as a result of this policy. Because that would mean that only by extraordinary pharmaceutical means could players be expected to get through the brutal NBA regular season schedule.

          • Karl Malone is the guy I would have wanted to be tested for HGH.

          • My pick for steroids and HGH testing would have been LeBron in high school. He entered the league at 19, super-ripped at over 250 pounds. An almost impossible feat without PEDs.

        • “below the waist” Sheesh.

    • And Milsaps shoulder injury?

  12. Cleveland-Boston looked like a pretty violent series. Perkins and Smith Ts, Love getting mangled by Olynyk. I wonder if the Cavs will try to bully Atlanta. I don’t think that would work out too well.

  13. Don’t believe Livingston ever “ran” the
    second unit. Good try, but “we got you.”

  14. Good idea.

  15. Bill Simmons on why he lost sleep to watch Ws-NO Game 3:

    “I stayed awake only because the Warriors AND Monty Williams were involved… The Warriors are playing Draymond Green at center and moving into Totally Frantic mode? Steph is hoisting 3s from the parking lot? Monty looks confused? Giddyup!”

  16. Felt,

    Concidentally, Pippen has this to tweet today.

    PIPPEN: CURRY MIGHT BE ‘TOUGHEST’ COVER
    Hall of Famer Scottie Pippen hosted a Twitter Q&A today, and he was asked which current NBA player he’d like to guard: “I’d say LeBron, but I think Steph Curry might be the toughest player to guard in the league.”