As the Golden State Warriors continue their quest at a fourth straight trip to the NBA finals, they’ll get a significant and compelling test in the Western Conference semis when they meet Anthony Davis and the scintillating-hot New Orleans Pelicans, who are fresh off a dominant first-round sweep.
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If you would have been told at the start of the year that the Warriors, considered one of the best collections of talent in NBA history, and the Pelicans, playing without All-Star DeMarcus Cousins, were going to meet in the NBA playoffs, you likely would have waved it off as a boring matchup and likely sweep.
But this series is wildly compelling in a variety of different ways.
How will the Warriors choose to matchup with Anthony Davis, who poured in 33.0 points on 57.6 percent shooting against the Blazers? Do they use Draymond Green, Kevin Durant, Kevon Looney or JaVale McGee? Or some combination of the four? Or just throw their entire team at him, hoping Holiday, Mirotic and Co. don’t make them pay?
Conversely, how much of Davis will Durant see on the other end? The Pels aren’t likely to use a whole lot of E’Twaun Moore or Nikola Mirotic on him, which could lead to a lot of KD vs. AD matchups. Durant is a stone-cold killer offensively, while Davis, who averaged 1.5 steals and 2.6 blocks during the season, is one of the most versatile defenders in the league, so whenever those two are on each other, it will deserve all of your attention.
Then there’s another dream matchup at the 2, where Jrue Holiday and Klay Thompson, two of the best two-way guards in the league, will go to battle. Thompson lit up the Spurs for 22.6 points and a silly 63.3 true-shooting percentage in the first round. Holiday gave the Blazers nightmares with 27.8 points and an efficient 62.7 true-shooting percentage of his own. Both play excellent defense, and both could swing this matchup one way or the other.
Another big question: Can Rajon Rondo continue to be playoff Rajon? He’s put up 11.3 points on 46.2 percent shooting, 12.2 assists (to just 3.0 turnovers), 7.8 rebounds and 1.7 steals in his last six postseason games, and if he can play like he did against Portland–not only distributing but also knocking down open shots–it’ll be massive for the Pels.
And, of course, the looming mountain-sized variable is the health of Steph Curry. Out since late March with a Grade 2 MCL sprain, the elite offensive force is questionable for Game 1, according to general manager Bob Myers:
It’s conceivable. He’s gonna try and practice … if he can get in tomorrow’s practice and Friday and doesn’t have any setbacks and feels physically ready, then there’s a chance he can go.
But if there’s any notion of him having any issues in any area, he wouldn’t go on Saturday. But the good news is, if he’s practicing — which is the plan — that means you’re pretty close…
So… conceivable — I don’t want to put a percentage on it because I don’t know — but I’m not saying inconceivable … we’ll know more pretty soon here.
The Warriors are still favorites, especially if Curry can return for the majority of the series, but the Pels have won nine in a row and 24 of their last 32 for a reason. Davis is an unstoppable force on both ends when healthy and focused, Holiday is playing like an All-Star, Mirotic is on fire (averaging 25.1 points, 10.9 rebounds, 3.6 threes on a 46.4 percent clip during the nine-game winning streak) and the role players have been solid.
This is going to be a really fun series.
Source: Heavy Sports