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Takeaways as Warriors play-in odds rise with complete win over Pelicans

The Warriors took it to the Pelicans in New Orleans on Monday, putting together a 123-108 victory in the first matchup between the two teams this season. It’s a crucial victory in the first of this two-game series between teams vying for the final play-in spot. Here are a few takeaways:

Threat of Steph kills Pelicans D

During his pre-fourth quarter in-game interview with ESPN, Pelicans head coach Stan Van Gundy said the “threat of Stephen Curry” was hurting the Pelicans more than Curry himself. For the uninitiated, that might seem like a confusing statement, considering Curry had 36 points on seven three pointers heading into the fourth quarter.

But you see, that is to be expected at this point. There isn’t a player or team that can slow down Curry right now. To beat the Warriors, you have to stop everyone else, a proposition that is easier than in recent years. That’s what killed the Pelicans on Monday, a bad defensive team (27th in efficiency) that was murdered by Warriors back door cuts, ball movement and passing, mostly thanks to their team-wide focus on Curry. This led to 31 Warriors assists on over 53 percent shooting, compared to just 20 dimes by the Pelicans. Draymond Green did most of the damage, accumulating 15 himself as part of another triple-double (10-13-15). His two-man, pick-and-roll game with Curry continues to be unstoppable.

Steph’s threat also created openings in the lane, where screeners took advantage with multiple fake handoff-drives.

Of course with the ball in his hands, Curry was again transcendent, finishing with 41 points and 8 assists, his ninth such 40+ game this season. The Pelicans had no answer for him, and unless he goes ice cold, it’s hard to imagine Curry won’t end up with 40+ again on Tuesday night.

Additionally, Steph got a good secondary scoring performance from Andrew Wiggins (26 points on 10-for-19 shooting) one that was much needed with Kelly Oubre out (wrist).

Zion gets his, nobody else does

While the Pelicans were unable to stop Steph and the rest of the Warriors on Monday, Golden State did a solid job on everybody except Zion Williamson. Actually, the Warriors did a pretty good job on the All-Star forward at times, mostly when Green was matched-up against him during the first and third quarters. Williamson scored just four field goals in those periods combined.

Eventually, Williamson got his numbers (32 points, 8 rebounds) but Golden State’s defense against everyone else was solid. Wiggins held Brandon Ingram to just 5-for-11 shooting, while Kent Bazemore was excellent on Lonzo Ball, holding him to just seven points two days after he posted a career-high (33 points).

The Pelicans shot just over 43 percent from the field and made just five three pointers. Heavy rotation minutes for Juan Toscano-Anderson (33 minutes, 14 points) and Bazemore (31 minutes, 9 points) have made the switchable, small Warriors an excellent perimeter defensive team once again.

Big win for the playoff standings

LeBron James can bitch about it all he wants, and Draymond Green can say he’s not motivated by it, but there is little doubt that the Warriors would rather be in the play-in tournament than in the lottery. Monday’s win increases the odds greatly that that will be the case.

Golden State (9th seed) is now four games clear of the Pelicans (11th seed). Another win on Tuesday would put them five games clear with seven remaining. The Spurs (31-32) sit in between the two teams in the 10th and final play-in spot. Golden State currently sits a game up on San Antonio, and would play them in a do-or-die matchup to begin the postseason.


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