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.
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?