The Golden State Warriors simply appear to have held court by winning their first two NBA playoffs first-round home games against the New Orleans Pelicans.
However, the odds say more, with 93.9 percent of teams who go up 2-0 advancing to the next round. The Pelicans and Warriors play Games 3 and 4 on Thursday and Saturday at the Smoothie King Center.
ESPN analyst P.J. Carlesimo said he thinks the Warriors, who finished the regular season with the NBA’s best record (67-15) will win the series, but he liked what he saw in the Pelicans in the first two games.
“This series had the team with the best home record in the league (39-2) against one of the (playoff) teams with the worst road record,” Carlesimo, a former NBA coach, said Tuesday during a conference call. “I was encouraged with the way New Orleans played. I wouldn’t have been surprised if they got smoked in both games in Oakland.”
The Pelicans, 17-24 on the road this season, were 28-13 at the Smoothie King Center, the franchise’s best home record since the 2011 team won 28 games at home. It is also the site of the Pelicans’ big 103-100 win against Golden State on April 7.
At home, the Pelicans shoot two percentage points better, grab an average of two more rebounds per game and score 4.7 more points per game. The biggest difference from road to home is that the Pelicans block three more shots (7.8 to 4.7) per game at home.
Carlesimo was at the Smoothie King Center for the Pelicans’ big regular-season finale win against San Antonio and saw how the team fed off the raucous home crowd. However, health, which has been the key issue with the Pelicans the past two seasons, will be most important, he said, in trying to gain a tie in a series in which winning was considered a long shot from the start.
“I think going back to Smoothie will be enormous for New Orleans,” he said. “If (Tyreke) Evans and (Jrue) Holiday are OK to play, capable of getting something done, I think that would be significant.
“But I’m anxious to watch the Pelicans at home because I think with a healthy Jrue and a healthy Tyreke, that team is just markedly better at home.”
Usually the play of the bench is the decided difference in how a team plays on the road compared with at home. The Pelicans’ reserves outscored the Warriors’ 25-12 in Game 1, in which New Orleans rallied from 25 points behind to close to four in the fourth quarter. That number was skewed by Evans leaving the game in the second quarter with a bruised knee. Golden State’s bench outscored the Pelicans’ 25-17 in Game 2, however.
Noticeable for the Pelicans in Oakland was the play of forward Ryan Anderson, the team’s key player off the bench. Anderson, showing the effects of missing 18 games with a sprained right knee, continued to struggle shooting. In the first two playoff games, he shot a combined 2-of-11, including 1-of-4 on 3-point shots, scoring seven points in an average of 15 minutes per game.
Injury or not, Anderson’s stats are much more impressive at the Smoothie King Center than they are on the road. He averaged 16.1 points on 44.6 percent shooting, 41.7 percent on 3-pointers, in home games. On the road, it was 11.6 points on 35.4 percent shooting, including 27.2 percent on 3-pointers.
“He plays so much better in New Orleans than on the road, and that’s a big factor,” Carlesimo said. “If Ryan shoots the ball the way he normally shoots it, and the other two guys are healthy, I’ll be surprised if they don’t win a game in New Orleans.”
Forging a tie will be difficult, though, he said.
“I not going to say anybody will beat Golden State back to back,” he said.
Questions about Evans, Holiday
The status of Evans and Holiday will be updated after Wednesday’s practice, team spokesman Matt Ryan said.
Evans missed most of the first game Saturday with a left knee bone bruise. The team said his status was uncertain for the rest of the playoffs. However, he returned for Game 2 on Monday, played 40 minutes, 58 seconds and had 16 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists.
Holiday had five points and five assists in 21 minutes in the first game, then didn’t play in the second game. After missing 41 games with a lower right leg stress reaction, he does not play in back-to-back games.
However, there was a day in between the first and second playoff games. Since returning on April 10, he has played a little more than his 15-minute limit, including 25:10 in the season finale against San Antonio.