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The Warriors Didn’t Need Steph Curry to Blow Out the Pelicans

If nothing changes for New Orleans, it’ll be in serious danger of getting swept

New Orleans Pelicans v Golden State Warriors - Game One Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images

Golden State pulled out an impressive 123-101 win against New Orleans, the NBA’s first game of the second round. With Stephen Curry still out with a knee injury, here are three takeaways from a game that never really seemed to miss him:

There’s No Defense for New Orleans’s Defense

Here’s a little-known NBA secret: Kevin Durant is not Jusuf Nurkic. (Let’s keep that between you and me.) Alvin Gentry had success during New Orleans’s first-round series putting Nikola Mirotic on Nurkic while letting Davis roam and protect the rim. But that wasn’t going to fly in the second round with Durant. And Mirotic-KD wasn’t the only mismatch on the court: Jrue Holiday’s man was Draymond Green.

Assigning Mirotic—who has now gotten his first post-beard loss, ending a glorious, fresh-faced 9-0 run—to Durant didn’t work. The Pelicans could afford to let Davis freelance in the paint last series, but now they’re matched against one of the best players of the past decade. Not quite tomato, tomato.

The Holiday Is Over

The Pels advanced because Anthony Davis was not the deciding factor in the team’s first-round series—despite averaging 33 points in the sweep. Rather, the key for New Orleans was Holiday, who was so explosive on offense that I triple-checked if he was in a contract year. (He’s not.) Holiday sucked the superstar powers away from Damian Lillard and made them his own—there’s a movie-spoiling Infinity War reference here, but I wouldn’t do that to you—while locking down whomever the Blazers sent his way.

But Playoff Jrue shrunk back into Passive Jrue in Game 1. Not only did he finish with numbers well below his 2017-18 averages, he fared worse than he did during his four regular-season games against the Warriors. In the previous matchups, Holiday averaged 24 points on 47 percent shooting and 4.8 assists. Saturday: 11 points on 28.6 percent shooting and four assists.

The only starpower New Orleans has is controlled by Davis. But the Warriors can multiply that by four. If Holiday can’t play up to his potential, the Pelicans could easily wind up on the wrong end of a sweep.

The Stat Line Is Always Greener

It’s hard to say there was one difference-maker in a 22-point game. But Game 1’s game changer was clearly Draymond Green, who topped off the win with his fourth career postseason triple-double, 16 points, 15 rebounds (four on offense), and 11 assists to go along with three steals and two blocks. Golden State’s defense smothered and suffocated and shit on (blogging after dark!) the best New Orleans had to offer. That was all kick-started by the outstanding defensive work Draymond did against Davis.

Green’s excellence gave the rest of Golden State some room for error. It made starting Nick Young in place of the injured Curry a nonfactor. Green will never be able to compensate for Curry’s shooting (neither will Young, despite that being his one job), but the Warriors have the league’s most gifted scorer to put up points. Shutting Davis down is what matters, because [looks at Holiday] the Pelicans’ role players and short bench won’t get it done.