The Golden State Warriors were the favorite by many to win the NBA title this season. Their combination of precision shooting, tough defense, depth and versatility can be an overwhelming thing to see every game. The Warriors used that combination to win 67 regular season and secure the number one seed this season in the tough Western Conference. Meanwhile, their first round opponent took a little bit different route to the playoffs. Fighting through injuries to key players, the New Orleans Pelicans fought their way into the playoffs. For most of the season, they were battling with the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Phoenix Suns for that eight seed in the West. It took the Pelicans until the last day of the regular season, but they were able to make it into the playoffs as the eight seed. Despite injuries to key players like big man Anthony Davis, the Pelicans were able to keep it together enough to make a run towards the playoffs. Through that experience, it seemed the Pelicans were trying to take that next step in developing. The team was able to make it to the playoffs and their prize for making it was the Golden State Warriors. And you could tell the difference in both teams on the court and not just by their records.
As you watched the series, it was evident who the more experienced team was. That was shown throughout the series when each team faced a little bit of adversity. In the first game of the series, the Warriors were dominating the game. They seemed to be comfortably pulling away from the Pelicans, when New Orleans made an improbable run in the fourth quarter. The game got tighter and tighter as the Warriors were missing shots and the Pelicans were working through Anthony Davis. Then, as the game got tighter, the Warriors did not panic and put the ball back in the hands of their best playmaker, Steph Curry. As a result, the Warriors were able to right the ship in that game and they ended up handing on the series-opening win versus New Orleans. The Pelicans were going to Davis for a while in that fourth quarter, but it seemed like when they got close, they decided to start going to other areas, mainly guard Eric Gordon. As a result, the momentum that was built was essentially ceased by a member of Anthony Davis’ own team. This shows you right there that the Warriors were sure who they were while the Pelicans are still trying to figure it out on the court.
Another example of New Orleans’ youth showing up for them was in Game 3. The New Orleans Hornets were on the opposite side of the coin when it came to 20 point leads this time. The Pelicans had been taking it to the Warriors all night long. It looked like they were going to win their first playoff game and then potentially get some momentum going. But the Warriors took the time to trust their defense, go back to basics offensively and they also hit the offensive boards. They began to chip at the lead of New Orleans Pelicans' huge lead in the fourth and they eventually would tie the game on a spectacular three-point shot by Steph Curry and send the game to overtime. The Warriors would go on to win the basketball game in overtime. They did everything right in terms of stopping the opponents, knocking down shots and doing whatever was possible to get the win they needed. On the other hand, it seemed as if New Orleans was wilting on the court. The Pelicans got their by allowing forward Ryan Anderson to go to work in the post on whoever the Warriors decided to put on him. That was working well, but it just seemed like they wanted to go a different direction when it mattered the most and Golden State was making their run. Touches to Anthony Davis can always be great things, especially in the clutch. But instead of going to Davis and Anderson, the ball funneled through the hands of guard Eric Gordon. And it was in that last twelve minutes in Game 3 that Golden State won the series and New Orleans lost it.
The experience of losing this series will undoubtedly not feel good for the Pelicans. They played hard and tried to win a game or two while trying to make it competitive all the way through. But the inexperience of their team eventually cost them. They did not know how to close someone out or take it to another level of playoff intensity at all times. On the other hand, Golden State has been in the playoffs before. When tough situations come, they know how to handle those like that of a team that has experienced the playoffs together. And it is because of their collective experience along with excellent ability that they are headed into the next round while the Pelicans are headed home. The experience the Warriors had won out over the inexperience of New Orleans. Hopefully Anthony Davis and the Pelicans will take this as a learning lesson and not as a failure.