The Pelicans and Warriors Battle By the Bay for Playoff Position

As the Pelicans push for a top-six seed, they’ll play the searing-hot Golden State Warriors. They’re winners of nine of their last 10 contests and currently the 9th seed in the Western Conference, and their their best ball is coming at the right time. Can the Pels blow past a team in top form on both ends of the floor?

Golden State’s defense places 16th (114.6)  in defensive rating across the season yet has ballooned to a top 5 unit (107.7) over their last 10 games. Draymond Green is returning to his playoff-level form, wrecking games as an off-ball defender like he’s done for nearly a decade. New Orleans loves attacking the rim and Green is better than almost anyone at rotating for blocks and impact contests.

Aside from his off-ball dominance, Green defends Zion Williamson as stoutly as anyone in the NBA. Way back in October (Green missed the other GS game), Green held Williamson to two points on 1-7 shooting and just two fouls. Elite core strength anchors Green against Zion’s explosive frame and the wingspan lets him contest any release.

In the rematch, the Pelicans could move Zion off-ball more often, forcing Draymond to switch or defend around screens with their curl and blade series. A healthy Gary Payton II juices up their destructive power even further, his rim protection and event creation compounding on Green/s impact. Attacking through off-ball motion, especially with CJ McCollum, will generate the easiest offense. Jonas Valanciunas will tower over whichever center they throw on him. Feeding him down low could generate efficient points. 

Steph Curry is somehow flying under the radar this season, slashing 26.5-5-4.4 on a strong 61.4% (+3 rTS) true shooting percentage while maintaining solid defensive impact. Curry’s touch around the basket is still all-time great and will be as long as he plays. Even with some declined burst, Curry locates creases to take and make shots at the rim and from floater range.

Previously this season the Pels found their most success with length on Curry, whether that be Brandon Ingram, Naji Marshall or Herb Jones. Steph will reach his spots, so bothering as much as possible with outstretched limbs hopefully can make his life harder. 

Steph burns deep-drop bigs like Jonas Valanciunas, firing pull-up threes off of a screen regardless of his airspace. If the point-of-attack defender can’t fight over and attach, they lose the possession. When the Pelicans blitzed Steph, he found answers as a passer. Truthfully, there isn’t much you can do.

New Orleans could try slowing the Warriors with their small-ball lineups with a wing at the five. Golden State’s short frontcourt makes this viable and that allows you to switch Curry ball screens and deny advantages.

Slowing Curry’s flowy isn’t an unreasonable ask. If the Pelicans create consistent offense and limit the other Warriors, they will continue their winning ways into the postseason.

Analysis by Ben Pfeifer

Keys to the Game

Start strong. The Pelicans rank third in the NBA in first quarter net rating (11.7), and on the road that improves to second (12.4). While the Warriors have been playing much better basketball lately, they are still just 20-19 at home. They rank 25th in first quarter net (-0.7). New Orleans demonstrated once again how important a fast start is against the Kings, building a 23-point first quarter lead. Over the final three periods, the Pels only outscored Sacramento 101-100. As they say, the home team always makes a run, and you can expect a few from Steph Curry and the Warriors tonight.

Keep Firing from Deep. After three consecutive games with fewer than 30 attempts from beyond the arc, the Pelicans have ramped up their three-point game. During their current three-game winning streak, New Orleans is averaging 38.3 attempts and 16.3 makes on 42.6% shooting. In their win over the Warriors on Jan. 10, the Pelicans were 19-of-40 from distance. While winning isn’t simply a function of getting threes up; it’s a mixture of ball movement and making sure the right players are taking the right shots. The Pelicans have done a great job of that, particularly CJ McCollum, who has stepped up big time. McCollum has been an exceptional compliment to Zion Williamson’s dominance inside, averaging 26.8 pts and 4.8 threes (46.2 3P%) over his last 10 games. Trey Murphy (3.0 3PM), Jose Alvarado (2.2), and Dyson Daniels (1.3) have been doing their parts as well.

Finish the Job. The Pelicans have already set the franchise mark for road wins in a season (27), but earning #28 could be their biggest win of the season. New Orleans is so close to clinching the sixth seed, and would be a virtual lock with a win tonight. While it’s fantastic that the Pelicans have rediscovered their “joy” on the court, it’s time to take care of business.

Most Recent Starting Lineups

New Orleans PelicansGolden State Warriors
G – CJ McCollumG – Chris Paul
G – Herb JonesG – Stephen Curry
F – Trey MurphyF – Andrew Wiggins
F – Zion WilliamsonF – Trayce Jackson-Davis
C – Jonas ValanciunasF – Jonathan Kuminga


New Orleans Pelicans: Brandon Ingram (left knee bone contusion), Naji Marshall (left shoulder contusion), and Larry Nance Jr. (personal reasons) are OUT.

Golden State Warriors: Draymond Green (right knee contusion), Dario Saric (right knee lateral joint line pain), and Klay Thompson are PROBABLE. Jonathan Kuminga (right pelvic contusion) is QUESTIONABLE. Gary Payton II (left calf tightness) is DOUBTFUL.

Who: New Orleans Pelicans (48-32) at Golden State Warriors (45-35)

Season Series

  • Oct. 30: Warriors def. Pelicans, 130-102
  • Jan. 10: Pelicans def. Warriors, 141-105
  • Apr. 12: New Orleans Pelicans at Golden State Warriors

Where: Chase Center

When: Apr. 12, 9:00 PM CDT

Where to watch: WVUE/Gray Television

Where to listen: WRNO 99.5

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