EditorsNote: subs in Steve Kerr quote in third graf
Kevin Durant had three hoops while teammate Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry added one apiece in a 10-point flurry that opened the second half and broke open a close game Tuesday night, lifting the Golden State Warriors to a 113-104 triumph over the New Orleans Pelicans in Oakland, Calif., and a 4-1 victory in their Western Conference semifinal series.
A second consecutive five-game series win vaults the defending champion and second-seeded Warriors up against the top-seeded Rockets in the Western Conference finals, a best-of-seven set that tips off Monday night in Houston.
“It’s been a long time since we’ve seen them, but we know they are a great team,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said of the Rockets. “We know they are ready, and we’ll be ready for them.”
Curry had 28 points, Durant 24 and Thompson 23 for the Warriors, whose 15th straight home playoff win tied the NBA record set by the Chicago Bulls from 1990-91.
Anthony Davis had his fifth double-double in the series with 34 points and 19 rebounds for the Pelicans, who have never advanced past the conference semifinals in their history.
Asked to assess the team’s season, Davis said, “Any time you don’t win a championship, I don’t see how it could be successful. We can take a lot of positive things from the season. Of course one of our main guys (DeMarcus Cousins) went out and everybody doubted us. Everybody counted us out and we were able to keep fighting, keep pushing as a unit and able to come this far.
“There’s no moral victories, but it’s a lot that we can take from the season.”
The Warriors led just 59-56 at halftime before hitting their first five shots of the third quarter to extend the margin to 13.
With Curry sinking a pair of 3-pointers and five free throws, three after having been fouled on a 3-point attempt, Golden State then ran off 19 of the next 25 points to open an 88-62 lead.
Durant pointed to the Warriors’ defense in that sequence as the key.
“When we lock in and get stops, I think we’re a very dangerous team in transition, and then we have guys that can do multiple things,” Durant said. “Steph, Klay, run around and knock down 3-balls, and Steph creating the pick-and-roll and penetrating; I like to get in in my sweet spot and go to work.
“There’s different ways we can score the ball, but I think defensively we try to play as hard as we can and contest shots and rebound.”
Absent during the second half was Pelicans guard Rajon Rondo, who had a groin injury. The veteran had seven points and seven rebounds in the first half.
“His movement wasn’t as it had been, and I just didn’t think that it was worth risking something that could be serious,” New Orleans coach Alvin Gentry said of leaving out Rondo the entire second half.
The Pelicans used a late 18-2 spurt to get within 107-100 with 2:01 to play, but Draymond Green hit a short turnaround jumper off an inbounds play, stalling the rally.
“I was really proud because we could have easily stopped playing,” Gentry said of his team’s comeback bid. “That’s not in our DNA, none of the guys, and so we were going to compete until the final buzzer went off.
“We came very close to, you know, really getting back in the game with four minutes to go, but you know, they made a couple of plays because that’s kind of who they are.”
Curry, playing for just the fourth time in the series after having missed the first round against the San Antonio Spurs and Game 1 against the Pelicans with a knee injury, connected on 10 of 16 field-goal attempts and 3 of 6 3-point tries en route to his team-high point total.
The Warriors won despite getting outscored 30-21 on 3-pointers.
Green contributed a 19-point, 14-rebound double-double for the Warriors, who have won 24 of their past 27 playoff games. Green also had a team-high nine assists.
Davis hit 13 of his 26 shots en route to his game-high point tally. He also blocked four shots.
Jrue Holiday chipped in with a 27-point, 10-rebound, 11-assist triple-double for the sixth-seeded Pelicans, who had swept the third-seeded Portland Trail Blazers in the first round.
Nikola Mirotic had 12 points and E’Twaun Moore 10 for New Orleans, which has lost 28 of its past 31 games against Golden State.
Next up for the Warriors is the long-anticipated showdown with the Rockets.
“Obviously it was so much coverage around the league and so much attention around our league, you hear about the best teams and the best players,” Durant said. “I just try to stay in the moment. Anything could happen, but this is the matchup, and both teams are looking forward to going up and competing and having some fun.”
—Field Level Media