Western Conference Semifinals: Golden State Warriors vs New Orleans Pelicans, Preview, SWOT Analysis & Prediction
As the first round of playoffs has drawn to a close, we haven't had much by the way of real surprises. While nobody saw the sweeping of the Blazers by the Pelicans coming, it was the general consensus that the Pelicans had the pieces to beat the Blazers in a 7-game series.
And thus, we move on to what is possibly the most mouthwatering matchup of the playoffs: the best point guard and the best wing player in the game pitted against the best big man in the game!
The Warriors play the Pelicans in the Western Conference semifinals. The Warriors got to the second round by making light work of the San Antonio Spurs, winning the series 4-1. One might argue that they could have made even shorter work of the task in the presence of their unanimous MVP, but one would also have to consider the Spurs missing their best player Kawhi Leonard in the equation.
I digress, however. The likes of Jrue Holiday, Rajon Rondo and Nikola Mirotic have come up big for the Pelicans in the playoffs - in fact, they've all had to raise their game after the Achilles injury suffered by DeMarcus Cousins in late January ruled him out for what could be a whole year of basketball activities.
The Warriors will have an uphill task against a well-coached team with perhaps the best two-way player in the league in Anthony Davis leading them. Let's take a look at how each of these teams matches up against each other:
The Warriors are the best shooting side in the NBA by all 3 major box score metrics - they ranked first in field goal percentage, first in 3-point percentage and first in free throw shooting percentage over the course of the regular season. They were the only side to crack a 50% field goal conversion rate and one of the three sides to crack 80% conversion from the charity stripe.
In addition, they ranked first in assists per game, first in blocks per game and first in overall points per game through the course of the regular season. The presence of efficient shooters like Curry, Durant and Klay taking their highest volume of shots does tend to increase this figure favorably for them.
The Pelicans have gotten off to the best possible start to their playoff campaign with a 4-0 sweeping of the Portland Trail Blazers. Through those 4 games, they averaged the highest points per game and the highest field goal percentage.
They're third in assists per game, second in blocked shots per game and third in 3-point percentage (2nd among teams that are still alive in the playoffs). They are conceding the fewest free throw attempts per game, and they're tied for the second-highest +/- per 100 possessions behind the 76ers in first.