Round 2 of the Warriors 2018 playoff campaign starts Saturday. The first two games will be on the Dubs home court and then off to New Orleans for games 3 and 4.
How will the Warriors match up against Anthony Davis, one of the top players in the game today? Davis and the Pelicans make quick work in their sweep of the Portland Trailblazers in Round 1.
One could argue that the Blazers peaked too early and were slumping going into the playoffs. The Pelicans were clearly at their best against Portland. Will they be able to keep up the high-level play or will the law of averages come calling?
As a veteran playoff team, the Warriors are hopefully in the process of gathering steam. If that’s the case, this series should be competitive but clearly winnable.
Stopping the Pelicans is the first challenge and most important the Warriors will face. Anthony Davis has been been excellent at both ends of the court. Finding ways to slow him down will be offensively will be tough. One way will be to make it harder for his teammates to get him the ball.
Making life difficult for Rajon Rondo as the Pelicans’ primary ball distributor should be a priority. His scoring the Warriors can live with. His assists are the danger.
If Rondo isn’t finding AD, he’s looking for Djrue Holiday or Nikola Mirotic. And Alvin Gentry is asking them to play with pace, to run their offense before defenders have a chance to get set.
The Warriors will need to get back on defense and look for Rondo creating opportunities for Holiday to drive and shoot mid-range shots. Mirotic was efficient from 3-point range. Understanding and countering these two will be a big part of the story.
Getting stops. The better the Warriors are on defense, the better they’ll be able to run their own transition offense and score on New Orleans. Keeping up the pace will also help keep Davis out of the defensive schemes around the glass where he is so strong.
Some of the most successful moments the Warriors had against the Spurs was when Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson drew the bulk of the defensive attention, allowing Shaun Livingston, Andre Igoudala and Quinn Cook good looks or lanes to the basket.
Interestingly, Quinn Cook played for New Orleans last year, so the matchup is not entirely new. He had one of his best games as a 2-way player in early April against the Pelicans, scoring 21 points. Andre Igoudala also has history. He and Djrue Holiday were teammates in Philidelphia in 2009-2011
Protecting the ball, of course, is the wildcard. Fewer bad passes and turnovers will enable the Warriors to press their strategy.
The other wildcard, maybe the biggest one, is Steph Curry. When he’ll return to the team and how he contributes. I think that maybe Steph will not be alone when he returns to the floor. One of the most enduring images I have of Curry is him coming around a screen by Zaza Pachuila to shoot a 3. Zaza sets the best screens. He is a Wall. Maybe we’ll get a chance to see Zaza the Wall freeing up Steph to deliver some serious splash.