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Warriors push past Pel­icans, aim for Rockets

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Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green (23) and New Orleans Pelicans guard Rajon Rondo (9) tangle in the first period as the New Orleans Pelicans face the Golden State Warriors at Oracle Arena in Oakland, Calif., on Tuesday, May 8, 2018.

The Warriors’ third quarter went roughly like this: quick Pelicans miss, Warriors outlet, open 3, Alvin Gentry timeout — then repeat that sequence another six times.

One quarter, one big run, and the Warriors sent the Oracle crowd home happy with a 113-104 series-clinching victory over the Pelicans Tuesday night.

This story has been updated with quotes and post-game material from the Warriors’ locker room at Oracle Arena.

After the first four minutes of the third, Gentry was on pace to call 12 timeouts, each more futile than the last. By the time the dust settled, the Warriors were up 20, the Pelicans had one timeout left for the entire game, and Stephen Curry was up to his disrespectful antics again.

Curry led the Warriors with 28 points and chipped in seven rebounds and eight assists. He said he felt almost back to normal, and that’s exactly what it looks like on the court.

Kevin Durant said that an aggressive edge is exactly what the Warriors need:

“No matter if he was on the sidelines and knee injury, he was always Steph… I think Coach did a great job, though, of just giving him a little bit here and there. Tonight, really just letting him go. You see, when you let the dog off the leash what happens. We going to need to continue him to be aggressive and we’ll live with anything after that.”

He ran through the usual maze of screens with ease, and on possession turned down an open 3, just to drive and kick, then get the ball back for another open 3, which he shot and got fouled on. It seemed like he was doing things just to get his conditioning back up and scoring was just an afterthought.

Klay Thompson busted out of his mini slump right from the jump, scoring 19 of his 23 in the first half.

Steve Kerr said the Warriors needed Thompson to start hot because of the way they played to open the game:

“Yeah, Klay broke out quickly. I thought that was great. Set a good tone for us. He got us going. You know, it seems like he does that frequently. He gets off to a lot of good starts, and it was good because we otherwise, you know, didn’t seem to be making a lot of shots.”

After having an insane first-round series, Thompson had been struggling against New Orleans, shooting over 50 percent from the field in one of five games Tuesday night. Over the last three, he’s shooting just 32 percent from the field and 23 percent from 3.

Draymond Green said it doesn’t ever feel like Thompson has an off night, even when he’s struggling with his shot:

“I mean, I’m looking at the stats sheet, he was 2-for-8 from 3 tonight and it seemed way crazier than that. Like he really had it going in the first half. Definitely looking forward to what he’s going to bring to the table coming up in this series against Houston but it’s no different than what he’s brought for the past six years since I’ve been here.”

The 3-ball has not been kind to the Warriors in the series. Even in this closeout game they made just seven 3’s. Instead, the Warriors took two dribbles in and pummeled the Pelicans from the midrange.

It’s something the Warriors have used to counter the Pelicans defense: throw the ball to Durant on the post to initiate all the offense. Durant’s been happy to oblige, pouring in 24 points Tuesday while being the main focal point. He almost seems to prefer it, at least while he’s struggling to find a rhythm from distance, shooting just 32 percent for the series.

The Pelicans made a big defensive adjustment and forced Green to attack Anthony Davis as the roll man. They turned what looked to be unstoppable after the first couple games into the biggest weakness.

Davis would sink into the paint and give Green the outside shot while clogging the lane and making any 2-on-1 advantages almost null. Green missed his first two 3’s and didn’t look to take another one after that. And when he tried to drive the lane, it was so congested it turned into either a turnover or a shovel pass to Andre Iguodala, who had to try to finish around Davis.

Iguodala finished just 1-of-4 from the field and when he’s not hitting from the outside he stops shooting altogether. And when that happens it puts that much more pressure on the stars to create.

But Green figured out ways to be effective, utilizing dribble handoffs and off ball screens to set up his teammates for open looks. He also scored 19 points while adding 14 rebounds, nine assists, three steals and two blocks. Green had himself a series, averaging 14.8 points, 11.8 rebounds, 10 assists, 2.2 steals and 1.6 blocks and became the first Warriors player in franchise history to average a triple-double for a playoff series.

Kerr heaped praise on the man he’s dubbed the heartbeat:

“The guy has huge energy, amazing defense, incredible basketball intellect. He’s a future Hall of Famer. He’s right in his prime right now but this guy, he is the perfect modern-day NBA big: He can guard everybody. He can step out and make 3’s. He can handle the ball in transition. This is what the NBA has become and you have to have somebody like Draymond to have a good team, so we’re lucky to have him.”

His defense was even more transcendent than his offensive stats, constantly rotating in help, closing passing lanes and boxing out any and all Pelicans on the offensive glass.

And it was all on display during that third quarter run, which encapsulated exactly what it’s like to play the Warriors when they are locked in.

Every quick shot sinking yourself deeper and quicker like quicksand, every defensive possession seeing Curry or Thompson or Durant spring wide open, no matter how hard you frantically try to close out, all while you scream desperately for a timeout.

Up next

After both Western Conference series wrapped up Tuesday, the matchup the basketball world has been waiting for is now here: Houston Rockets vs Golden State Warriors. Both teams will have almost a week to prepare, as Game 1 will be Monday in Houston.

Notes

The Warriors tie the NBA record for most consecutive home playoff wins with 15 straight. They tie the Chicago Bulls who did the same thing in 1990-91 and have a chance to surpass them Sunday for Game 3. …They also became just the second team in NBA history to make the Western Conference Finals in four straight seasons. The Los Angeles Lakers are the only other franchise to do so when they made eight-straight Western Conference Finals from 1982-89.


Curtis Uemura is SFBay’s Golden State Warriors beat writer. Follow @SFBay and @CUemura on Twitter and at SFBay.ca for full coverage of Warriors basketball.

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