The first round of the 2018 NBA playoffs is underway, with plenty of competitive series still being played, and a few of those 4-0 or 4-1 series coming to an end in the last couple of days. There has been a plethora of competition for the most part, with the one-eight matchup in the East tied up and the second-seeded Celtics just barely getting a game up on the seventh-seeded Bucks to bring them to 3-2. Even the LeBron James-led Cavaliers have struggled against the Pacers, leading the series just 3-2. If the Cavaliers lose the series, it would raise a ton of debate over James’ spot on a squad next season.
The Golden State Warriors vs. the New Orleans Pelicans is the first second-round matchup ready to roll. Let’s predict what this series will bring and who will come out on top.
Golden State Warriors
The Golden State Warriors did not struggle too much without Steph Curry, defeating LaMarcus Aldridge and the San Antonio Spurs 4-1. The Warriors were up 3-0 and could have swept for some extra rest time, but they did not bring much to the table in Game 4. Game 5 was a close one too, as the Spurs almost pulled off a comeback, but Kevin Durant was ultimately too clutch to handle.
In terms of a Curry return, there is no telling when exactly he will be back. Head coach Steve Kerr said a couple days ago that it would not be “anytime soon,” but he does appear to be progressing quite well. When the former MVP comes back, this team will return back to their regular unfair form.
In the Spurs series, Durant led the way with averages of 28.2 points on 48 percent shooting, 8.6 boards, 5.2 assists and a few defensive stats here and there. His numbers are up slightly, assuredly due to the absence of Curry, but his efficiency is down a bit. Regardless, 48 percent is nothing to be upset about, and he will be phenomenal as long as he is on the floor.
Klay Thompson stepped up as well, averaging 22.6 points on 52.9 percent shooting. He has always been ultra-efficient and is constantly a treat to watch. Without Curry, he gets more touches and more looks, and for whatever reason has increased efficiency more often than not. Watch out.
Draymond Green struggled with his shot, but with everyone else making seemingly everything, they do not even need many of his points. What he lacks in scoring he makes up literally everywhere else, as his rebounding especially has been fantastic this postseason.
As all basketball fanatics know, this is a team capable of basically anything, and the return of Steph Curry brings them that much closer to possibly being the best squad to ever grace the basketball court.
New Orleans Pelicans
Anthony Davis and the Pelicans are arguably the surprise of the postseason so far. They took down a very, very good Portland Trail Blazers team with what seemed like ease, sweeping them 4-0 and advancing sooner than anyone. Keep in mind that this is a Portland team that won 13 straight games at one point this season, and were hotter than anyone in the league. As soon as they reached the playoffs, they got a hint of Jrue Holiday, a dash of playoff Rajon Rondo and a heap of The Brow. You have to think this Portland team is going to look a bit different come next season.
Davis was up to his old tricks this series, averaging 33 points, 11.8 boards, 2.8 blocks and 1.8 steals with high efficiency. His excellence is almost taken for granted these days, and he could be the best player in the postseason barring any injuries. If James Harden does not win MVP for whatever reason, there is no way it does not go to AD.
Holiday and Rondo were the most pleasant of surprises, and were truly the difference makers in this series. Holiday came away with some amazing averages of 27.8 points, four rebounds and 6.5 assists per game, while Rondo surprised everyone with 11.3 points, 7.5 rebounds and 13.3 assists. And there is good news for Pelicans fans: Holiday loves playing the Warriors as he averaged 24 points and some other goodies against them in the regular season.
This Pelicans squad is one without DeMarcus Cousins, and have quickly proven that they are the real deal. Their only problem? Their next opponent.
What the Pelicans have done this postseason is incredible, but they have a tough task ahead of them. Golden State is deeper, more experienced and has more studs. The season series was a 3-1 Warriors advantage, but there has only been one game played between them since the new year. The result was a six-point Pelicans win.
The Pelicans are a different team than what we saw before the All-Star Break, and this could be a competitive series. However, betting against the Warriors is usually not a good call, even with them not having the best 3-point shooter ever on their side.
The Pelicans will definitely put up a fight with their three big stars in the Portland series, but unfortunately they would really need a fourth guy to stand a chance against the defending champs. Each team should have a much tougher series this time around. The Pelicans should be able to steal some games and bring this series to a Game 6.
Prediction: Golden State in six
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