GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS (64-25) at NEW ORLEANS PELICANS (52-36)
Tip-off: Friday, 8:00 p.m. ET
Line: Golden State -4, Total: 230.5
New Orleans played well in Game 2, but do they stand any chance with Steph Curry on the floor?The New Orleans Pelicans are going for it. They've made a commitment to running with the Warriors, and they've stuck to it. Things looked bleak in Game 1, when Golden State took an easy 123-116 win. But in Game 2 at Oracle, the Pelicans looked much more competent on offense, and were primed to steal a win on the road. There was only one problem: Steph Curry was back on the court. Curry made the most of his return to action after missing about six weeks of games, putting up 28 points in only 27 minutes off the bench in a 121-116 victory, giving the Warriors a commanding 2-0 lead as the series swings back to The Big Easy. It begged the question: If the Pelicans couldn't steal a win despite playing exceptionally well, can they get a win at all in this series? Since 1996, road favorites of 3.5 to 9.5 points that are outscoring their opponents by at least 3 PPG on the season (GSW) are 78-34 ATS after having allowed at least 55 points in the first halves of two straight games. In the same timeframe, games involving two teams allowing shooting percentages between 43.5-45.5% to opponents and holding rebound differentials between -3 and +3 are 58-14 Over against totals of 220 or greater when played 42 or more games into the season. New Orleans is 30-13 Over at home this season (69.8%), easily the highest such mark in the league.
There are plenty of reasons to hate the Warriors, but they tend to be forgotten when Curry and the gang is playing the type of beautiful, exciting basketball they were playing on Tuesday. All of Curry's best tricks were on display: Running his man off three screens before splashing an open three, nailing contested off-the-dribble jumpers from way beyond the arc, you name it. He also pulled down seven rebounds and nabbed three steals in his limited minutes. He figures to rejoin the starting five for Game 3. After struggling a bit against the Spurs in the first round PF Draymond Green has risen to the challenge of playing against New Orleans' Anthony Davis. Through two games in this series, Green has 36 points, 24 rebounds, 23 assists, four blocks and three steals. Even more important than his counting stats, he's shot 12-for-20 from the floor. He made only 35.7% of his shots from the floor against San Antonio. SF Kevin Durant has been consistent as it gets in these playoffs, hitting at least 42.9% of his shots in each game and scoring no fewer than 24 points in each of them. He led the Warriors with 29 points in Game 2, and added six rebounds, seven assists, three blocks and two steals. SF Andre Iguodala had his best game of the playoffs thus far, scoring 15 points (5-8 FG), grabbing eight rebounds and nabbing three steals. It's unknown exactly what Kerr will do with the starting lineup, but it seems probable that Iguodala will stay while SG Nick Young hits the bench. Young played only 11 minutes in his start on Tuesday, scoring three points and posting a game-worst plus-minus of -11.
PF Anthony Davis is ol' reliable for New Orleans, dominating in every game he plays in. Such was the case in Game 2, when he put up 25 points, 15 rebounds, five assists, three blocks and two steals. With Davis' production a constant, it's clear that other Pelicans need to step up for the team to get a win in the series. It was perhaps a bad sign that pretty much everyone did step up in Game 2. PG Jrue Holiday had 24 points, eight rebounds and eight assists in a game-high 47 minutes; PG Rajon Rondo had 22 points, seven rebounds, 12 assists and five steals; and PF Nikola Mirotic had 18 points and nine rebounds. While "Playoff Rondo" was expected to play at this level, Holiday and Mirotic's performances have been revelations, coming from players who have always been known to be talented but have rarely had the opportunity to shine on this stage. Holiday and Rondo are two of the few guards in the league at least theoretically capable of containing Curry and the rest of the Warriors on the perimeter, and they'll need to try something unconventional (like their aggressive trapping schemes against Portland in Round 1) if they want to actually do it. Rondo could also stand to cut down on the turnovers; he had seven in Game 2. New Orleans' biggest problem is its depth—after that Big Four, there's pretty minimal talent on the roster. SG E'Twaun Moore was solid on Tuesday with 14 points in 36 minutes, but under no circumstance should E'Twaun Moore be playing 36 minutes in a playoff game. The guys coming off the bench are no-names as well, which is a problem against a Golden State bench that is one of the league's best—even when it doesn't include Steph Curry.