For the second series in a row, the Golden State Warriors find themselves sporting a 2-0 lead and heading on the road for games 3 and 4.
In their previous series this postseason, they won their first two home games against the San Antonio Spurs, and now they’ve duplicated that feat against the New Orleans Pelicans.
The Warriors couldn’t complete the sweep last series against the Spurs, but now they have another chance against the Pelicans.
Here are some keys to a sweep so the Warriors can cruise into the Western Conference Finals with the most momentum possible and some much-needed rest.
Force the Pelicans into Careless Turnovers
The Pelicans play at the fastest pace in the league in terms of possessions per game. That type of frenetic activity can provide a jolt to their offensive execution, but it could also lead to turnovers if things get too chaotic. The Pelicans ranked sixth in the league last season in turnovers per game. In game 1, the Pelicans committed 12 turnovers. In game 2, they committed 14 turnovers. They averaged 14.4 over the course of the regular season, so the Warriors need to really do their best to clog passing lanes and anticipate ball movement. Turnovers often lead to quick points on the other end, and the Warriors have been known to predicate their game on having their explosive offense catalyzed by staunch defense just played on the other end.
Control the Glass
The Pelicans don’t have a very good rebound differential. Their opponents grabbed on average 1.2 more rebounds per game than they did over the course of the regular season, which ranked in the bottom third of the league in that category. The absence of DeMarcus Cousins for the last couple months of the season undoubtedly hurt them in this regard and makes them far more vulnerable to being dominated on the glass despite Anthony Davis’s hulking presence. So far this postseason, Davis is the only player on the Pelicans who has averaged at least 10 minutes per game and registered a Total Rebound Percentage greater than 14%. The Warriors have three such players that fit those criteria. If you lower the threshold to 12%, the Pelicans only have two players while the Warriors have six players. The Warriors have more rebounding depth in their present rotation, and it could be a big factor going forward.
Make Rondo to Settle for Perimeter Jumpers
It looks like each defense is essentially going to live with either Rajon Rondo taking a perimeter jumper or Draymond Green pulling up from deep. Each offense is so dynamic that the defense is compelled to play the number’s game and take their chances by luring a poor outside shooter into having the possession result in that type of shot. Rondo has increased his range these past couple seasons, but his precision still doesn’t inspire much confidence. During the regular season, Rondo shot just 32.7% on field goals between 16 feet and the 3-point line. He wasn’t much better on 3-pointers at just 33.3%. Given what an electric playmaker and effective floor general he is, letting him shoot from the perimeter is a win for the defense. The Warriors will be all too happy if Rondo opts to shoot from the outside instead of showing off his facilitating skills.