The Pelicans were better than ever, but the Warriors are still the Warriors. They ended New Orleans’ season in Game 5 with a massive blowout.
The New Orleans Pelicans had a fantastic season. When they lost DeMarcus Cousins to a torn Achilles’ tendon, they could have disintegrated and missed the playoffs again. Instead, they rose to the challenge, made the playoffs and did some damage when they got there. Their first-round sweep of the Portland Trail Blazers was the high point of their season and, really, the high point of the Anthony Davis era. They showed what this team could be at its ceiling.
Unfortunately, the ceiling of the Golden State Warriors was still a few floors up.
Golden State used a 25-4 run to start the third quarter to blow the game wide open. They entered the fourth quarter with a 20-point lead and, despite taking their feet off the gas for a few moments here and there, pretty much maintained control right through to the final buzzer.
Kudos to the Pelicans for finding the best version of themselves. Kudos to the Warriors for being better.
Stephen Curry might be 100 percent. Curry was tossing fireballs in his playoff debut, Game 2 of this series. He came off the bench and dropped 28 points, shooting 5-of-10 from the 3-point line. He followed that up by looking decidedly human in Games 2 and 3, shooting 38.9 percent from the field and making just 7-of-18 3s. The Warriors were still in control but it brought back memories of the 2016 Finals when a hobbled Curry made the Warriors vulnerable. Curry looked much more comfortable in Game 5, dropping 28 points, eight assists and seven rebounds on 10-of-16 shooting and 3-of-6 3-pointers. If this is the Curry Golden State is taking to the Western Conference Finals, their vulnerabilities may be mostly imagined.
Jrue Holiday and Anthony Davis are for real. Davis has been in the MVP conversation for multiple seasons, but the playoff emergence of Holiday solidifies this Pelicans core as a force to be reckoned with. Through the first four games of this series they were averaging a combined 45.1 points, 20.1 rebounds, 7.3 assists, 3.5 steals and 2.6 blocks per game. They went for 61 points, 29 rebounds, 12 assists, two steals and four blocks in Game 5. Holiday has emerged as the second-most important piece for New Orleans, presenting an interesting conundrum with DeMarcus Cousins’ contract negotiations this summer. Does Cousins really augment this core? As good as they are, could cap space be used for something more beneficial?
We finally get to see Warriors-Spurs. It’s been the matchup we’ve been waiting for, pretty much since the beginning of the season. Golden State and Houston were the two best teams in the league during the regular season by a wide margin. The Warriors are a uniquely talented and unlike anything we’ve ever seen in the NBA. The Rockets are also uniquely talented and, in many ways, specifically designed for this matchup and to counter this team. The Western Conference Finals should be lit.