The Pels got crushed for 7 straight mins in Game 1 and the game was over by halftime, Darius Miller 73-foot nothing but net shots included. There are some things that happened in Game 1 that we should not expect to carry over to tonight’s Game 2, and some adjustments the Pelicans could make as they look to sneak out of Oakland with a split series.
1. The Pels in Foul Trouble
Holiday, Moore, and Clark all had 4 fouls early on in Game 1. For a team with as little bench depth as the Pelicans have, this means needing to keep guys out there when they are in foul trouble. It’s hard enough for most NBA players to play defense against the Warriors at full strength, it’s even more difficult when you’re worried about your foul count. For the most part, fouls cause players to play less aggressively (as Ben Falk points out here), which is a recipe for disaster when Durant or Draymond are on the ball. And it will get even worse if Curry plays today, as Steph draws over 4 fouls per game.
Part of those early fouls could be attributed to having to get yourself back up to speed after a week off. Expect the Pels to be more active on switches to counteract the cutting and off ball movement that the Warriors love to run in the halfcourt.
2. Switching Looney or Draymond onto Mirotic
One of the things that made Draymond so effective in Game 1 was his ability to drift off whatever non-shooter the Pels had on the court (e.g. Rondo, Hill) to play centefield, like what the Pels did with Davis in round 1. The Pels will try to do more flare screens, having whoever Green is guarding off the ball screen for Mirotic, forcing the Warriors to switch Green from a bad shooter to Mirotic. This should result in some cleaner looks for Niko from deep or some space in the paint for AD to work. When Looney was in, the Pels struggled to create the space for Davis, as Draymond and Looney were able to shut AD down for that long stretch in the second quarter.
The article references it but Looney was a huge factor. On the 37 possessions he guarded Davis, the Pels only scored .76 pts/poss. On the flipside, Davis guarded Looney on 29 possessions and GSW scored 1.38 pts/poss
— Alex Harari (@aharari820) April 30, 2018
Mirotic was crucial in the Pels win over the Warriors in early April, hitting 6 of 10 from deep. The Pels scored 1.27 points/possession when Mirotic matched up on Draymond and 1.43 when he matched up on Looney. Meanwhile, Mirotic was only guarded by Looney on 9 possessions in Game 1, with Iguadola getting the assignment on Mirotic for most of the game. For the Pels offense to click more, they are going to have to do more to get Mirotic involved.
3. Limit Solomon Hill
It’s always said that offense grinds to a halt in the playoffs and your flaws are exposed. Well the flaw the Pelicans have is they generally have at least one bad shooter on the court at all times. When it’s Rondo, you expect the offense to keep going. When Hill is the bad shooter, you expect his defense to keep the Pels in the game. For now, the Pelicans need Rondo to orchestrate the offense and push the pace. But Hill is a different story. Since he’s come back from injury this year, he’s a half second slower on defense. This has led to some bad fouls and easy buckets, two things they need to cut down on in Game 2.
Despite how bad the Pels looked in Game 1, they still have a chance to come back to New Orleans even at 1.