Extra rest may have hampered Pelicans’ rhythm in Game 1 against Warriors
OAKLAND, Calif. — The advantages of rest are obvious.
The drawbacks are more opaque and harder to define. Yet, Pelicans’ coach Alvin Gentry knew them when he saw them.
New Orleans was rewarded with a full week off between its sweep-clinching Game 4 win over the Portland Trail Blazers and series opener at Golden State. While it allowed time for rest, travel acclimation and system installation, it might have cost the Pelicans’ their rhythm, partially leading to a 123-101 loss on Saturday.
“You know, we’ve been playing great basketball, and I’m not so sure if the week off helped us, really,” Gentry said. “I thought we lost a little bit of our rhythm. You know, we missed some shots that we’ve been making the last two weeks and then you know, they came at us hard and we didn’t respond to it real well. But that’s all things that can be corrected.”
It was the longest break New Orleans had this season, and after a back-and-forth first quarter, things broke down entirely in the second. Several Pelicans’ players commented that shots which fell during the first round simply missed on Saturday.
Jrue Holiday in particular went 4-for-14 from the floor, and was covered by a variety of Warriors’ defenders, including power forward Draymond Green.
“The looks were there,” Holiday said. “Corner 3 was wide open. I had a couple of bunnies at the basket that I missed. A pull up jump shot at the top of the key was wide open that I missed. That’s for me, personally. I know Anthony (Davis) has been killing shots all season that he didn’t make, too.”
Unlike the Warriors, the Pelicans opted not to take a day off despite a two-day break between Game 1 and Game 2. Instead they scheduled practices inside Oracle Arena on both afternoons, hoping to regain their rhythm before they re-take the floor.
“I would say a lot of guys were rusty,” Ian Clark said. “Jrue missed a lot of easy shots he normally makes. Niko (Mirotic), Darius (Miller) missed shots, too. You can go down the line of shots we usually make and were making in round one that we just weren’t making yesterday.
“It’s going to be natural. It’s hard to simulate the game, as much as we try.”
Darius Miller made the most impressive play of the playoffs, but it was largely forgotten in the aftermath of the loss.
A 74-foot heave at the halftime buzzer connected, temporarily silencing a buzzing Oracle Arena. It was the longest field goal converted in an NBA postseason game in 20 years.
It was the first time Miller said he can ever remember even attempting a full-court shot in a game.
“I mean, I don’t know, I just shot it,” Miller said. “I guess I knew how much time was left because I threw it up there, but I just shot it. And it went in.”
However, it came on the tail end of the Warriors’ 41-point second quarter onslaught, ensuring Miller’s shot was relegated to being merely a factoid rather than an impactful playoff moment.
“I was honestly still frustrated with how the game was going so I didn’t really enjoy it,” Miller said. “So, I really didn’t read too much into it or anything.”
One of the few bright spots in Saturday’s ugly loss was the fourth-quarter performance of Jordan Crawford in the final few minutes.
The reserve guard, affectionately known as “Instant Grits” for his ability to heat up in a hurry, made 6-of-7 field-goal attempts, including a pair of 3-pointers, mostly against the Golden State bench.
While his 14 points didn’t affect the result, it made him New Orleans’ third-leading scorer and pulled the margin of defeat back toward respectability. It all showed Crawford is still a weapon deep in the Pelicans’ arsenal if they ever find themselves in need of a quick cavalcade of jumpers.