After a relatively poor Game 3 performance, and the near miraculous comeback needed to make up for it, the Golden State Warriors bounced back in a big way to complete a first round sweep of the New Orleans Pelicans with a Game 4 victory at the Smoothie King Center.
From the get-go, it was evident that the same issues that plagued the Warriors in Game 3 weren’t going to be an issue in yesterday’s game.
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Whereas in Game 3, Golden State came out looking to be a little too flashy, and a lot too unfocused, the Warriors came out of the gate yesterday on an obvious mission: to bring out the brooms. The Warriors got a 39 point, 9 assist and 8 rebound performance from Stephen Curry, 28 points and six three pointers from Klay Thompson and a well-rounded 22 point, 10 rebound and 8 assist performance from Draymond Green.
In contrast to the first half of Game 3, where the Warriors allowed New Orleans to go on a 13-2 run at the start of the second quarter, and eventually let the deficit balloon up to 20 points by the start of the fourth, the Warriors’ largest deficit yesterday was when they were down 9-5 three minutes into the first quarter. In large part, the Warriors’ ability to dominate Game 4 came from a shift in their approach to the game.
Though Golden State plays at one of the fastest paces in the league and led the league in fast break points during the regular season, trying to speed the game up in Game 3 resulted in a ton of mistakes; they committed an uncharacteristic 15 turnovers. This allowed the Pelicans to dominate the pace of the game, to the tune of 23 fast break points, despite them only averaging 10.7 during the regular season (good for 24th in the Association). With New Orleans able to get out on the break, they created plenty of easy shot opportunities for themselves and shot an insane 51.1% from the field compared to Golden State’s 40.4%.
Apr 25, 2015; New Orleans, LA, USA; Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (30) drives past New Orleans Pelicans forwardAnthony Davis
(23) during the first quarter in game four of the first round of the NBA Playoffs at the Smoothie King Center. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
In Game 4 however, the Warriors emphasized succeeding in the half court, as that limits the fast break opportunities for their opponent and gives them more control over the pace of the game. Their modified game plan proved to be successful, as Golden State started the game off with six out of their first 11 made field goals being assisted within their half court offense, and opened up a seven point lead that wouldn’t be relinquished for the rest of the game. Conversely, without the easy scoring opportunities afforded by Golden State’s errors, New Orleans was held to zero fast break points for the first time all series.
The Warriors’ play in the third quarter was also a major contributing factor to their win. In Game 3 Golden State came out of halftime noticeably flat, hitting only four field goals in the final nine minutes of the frame, while allowing the Pelicans’ lead to balloon to 20 points because of lazy, foul-happy defense that saw New Orleans attempt 14 free throws in the quarter. But yesterday, the Warriors flipped the script and held New Orleans without a field goal for nearly eight minutes, while also using their fast break prowess to end the quarter with a 21 point advantage.
For the game, Golden State shot 54.2% from beyond the arc compared to 34.1% in Game 3, and were infinitely more efficient on offense, hitting 13 threes on 24 attempts, compared to only 14 treys on 41 tries in the previous match. Though the Warriors couldn’t exactly hold Anthony Davis in check, their ability to force his teammates to handle the brunt of the playmaking severely hindered the Pelicans’ chances to stay in the game and proved once again that when this team is on, it’s going to be hard for anybody else to stand a chance.
As the Warriors move through the postseason, if they play more games like Game 4, and less like Game 3, seeing them in this June’s NBA Finals will soon be a mere formality.