Before the Pelicans played the Warriors in Game 4 of the 2018 Western Conference Semifinals, Pelicans’ Head Coach Alvin Gentry commented on how important he thought the 1st Quarter would be to the Pelicans success. Gentry said, “you have to be able to score the ball against these guys ‘cause they’re going to score it. If you’re struggling, offensively, then that just puts added pressure on your defense. You have to be able to try to come up with baskets, just to alleviate some of the pressure that you have dealing with their offense.” The offense is where the problems would begin for New Orleans on Saturday afternoon.
The Pelicans looked sloppy early-on much like they had in Game 3 of the series. New Orleans had multiple contested layups not fall which clearly stagnated the offense in the 1st Quarter. Unfortunately for the Pels, they were not playing the rigid defense that they had played in Game 3 which had kept that game close even when they were struggling offensively. The Pelicans defensive struggles also were in part due to an absolutely locked-in Kevin Durant. The Warriors jumped out to a 37-22 lead to end the 1st Quarter behind 10 points from Durant. Led by Jrue Holiday, the Pels got back into the game in the 2nd Quarter and closed the lead to 61-54 at the half.
Early on in the 3rd Quarter the Warriors finally managed to put the struggling Pelicans away. Kevin Durant kept leading the way, dropping 13 points to add to the 20 that he had scored in the first half, and put the Warriors up 94-73 at the end of the 3rd Quarter. It was much of the same in the 4th Quarter as Durant added 5 more points to finish with 38 and increase the Warriors lead to as much as 26 points at one time. The Warriors finished off the game by a score of 118-92 and now take a 3-1 lead in the series.
When looking back on the game, it was more than just Kevin Durant that sunk the Pelicans. For one, Steve Kerr started a lineup of Curry, Thompson, Green, Iguodala, and Durant for the first time ever. That “small” lineup moved the ball extremely well for the whole game and created a lot of open looks that were easily knocked down. That lineup also played stiff defense that led to the Pelicans having their worst three-point shooting performance of the entire season as they went only 4-26 (15.4%) from behind the arc. Taking threes away was clearly a focus for the Warriors after the Pelicans had shot 45.2% from 3-point land in their Game 3 win. Quinn Cook also added a big spark for the Warriors off of the bench as he almost outscored New Orleans’ entire bench with 12 points compared to the Pels’ 14.
The Pelicans will fly out to Oakland after the game to prepare for their Tuesday night battle with the Warriors in Game 5. With a win, the Pelicans would return home to face the Warriors in Game 6 on Thursday night, but as Coach Gentry reminded his team, “we gotta win one game at Oracle. That’s the one that we play next. That’s as far as we need to look. Obviously, it’s a monumental task, but it has been done before… We just gotta go and play and you know you’re not out until they win four games. Our message is that we have one there (Oakland) and it’s gonna be a hard, hard, thing to do, but we gotta go there with the understanding that we’re gonna play and give everything that we have. If it works out, we’ll play again. If not, our season will be over.”