EditorsNote: adds quotes from Kerr, Thompson and Messina
The Golden State Warriors responded to their first loss of the postseason with a championship-type defensive effort Tuesday night, suffocating the San Antonio Spurs 99-91 to complete a 4-1 win in the first round of the NBA playoffs at Oakland, Calif.
Kevin Durant had a team-high 25 points, Klay Thompson 24 and Draymond Green a 17-point, 19-rebound double-double for the Warriors, who won their 12th consecutive home playoff game.
The defending champions, seeded second in the West this year, advance to a Western Conference semifinal matchup with the sixth-seeded New Orleans Pelicans, who scored a surprising four-game sweep of the third-seeded Portland Trail Blazers.
The best-of-seven series will open in Oakland on Saturday, with Golden State holding the home-court advantage. The Warriors won the season series 3-1 over New Orleans, although the Pelicans prevailed in the most recent meeting, 126-120 in Oakland on April 7.
“It was fun watching them play,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said of the Pelicans. “It’s not going to be as much fun playing against them because they present a lot of problems. ... They are playing at a really high level, and obviously it’s a very different team from the Spurs.”
Thompson hit five shots in a row, including a 3-pointer, in an 11-point second quarter, helping the Warriors run out to a 49-38 halftime advantage.
The Spurs, seeking to come back from a 3-1 deficit to win a series for the first time in the Gregg Popovich era, fell 16 points back late in the third quarter before making a furious rally down the stretch.
Two free throws by LaMarcus Aldridge got San Antonio within 93-91 with 57.2 seconds to play, but Durant countered with an 18-footer with 36.1 seconds left, and the Spurs never scored again.
“Kevin made a huge shot coming out of a timeout,” Kerr said. “That was obviously a big sequence. And then I think we got a stop on the next play and kind of sealed it.”
Durant and Green hit a pair of free throws each in the final 24 seconds to ice Golden State’s fourth consecutive first-round series win.
Popovich missed his third straight game following the death of his wife, Erin. Assistant Ettore Messina coach the team.
Messina said of his players, “I think they have done an incredible job and tonight, in a night where shots were not falling in, we were kind of grinding to give ourselves a shot to go within two points and still have a game with I think 1 1/2 minutes left. And when we shot I think an open shot in the corner, I think we still have an opportunity.”
So I think that goes to — as a credit, to the resilience of this group, and I can’t be happier for them for what I saw on the court tonight.
San Antonio’s 91-point total equaled its lowest in the postseason since being held to 90 in Game 1 of a first-round series against the Dallas Mavericks in 2014.
Coming off a 4-for-16 shooting effort in Game 4, Thompson hit 11 of 22 shots in Game 5. The Warriors outshot the Spurs 44.6 percent to 37.2 percent.
“I’ve had so many (rough nights) in my career, even before the NBA, I know how to bounce back,” Thompson said. “So it’s not a big deal to have an off shooting night to me, at least, because I know if I play hard, it’s going to come back around.”
Golden State won despite shooting just 5-for-27 (18.5 percent) on 3-pointers. The Spurs weren’t much better, making 7 of 30 (23.3 percent).
Aldridge had a game-high 30 points and Patty Mills 18 for the Spurs, who were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs for just the fifth time in the past 21 years.
Aldridge completed his fourth straight double-double with a team-high 12 rebounds.
Manu Ginobili and Kyle Anderson added 10 points apiece for San Antonio.
Kerr said of the Spurs, “They put up a hell of a fight tonight. They are obviously a championship organization, and they have been doing this for a long time, and you know, they are a reflection of their coach.
“We’re still obviously thinking about Pop. Pop, if you’re watching out there, we love you. Our whole team and coaching staff has been thinking about you every day. Your team reflected who you are tonight. They battled every step of the way, and that was a big time fight and we’re lucky to get out of here.”
—Field Level Media