Kevin Durant and Draymond Green ignited a brilliant second quarter with their defense and all-out hustle plays, then the Golden State Warriors got rolling in transition and made Oracle Arena start rocking the way it does this time of year.
The Warriors, the defending N.B.A. champions, are dominating again, and now Stephen Curry appears ready to rejoin the mix and make them that much better. Curry has been dealing with a sprained ligament in his left knee and has not played since March 23.
Durant had 26 points and 13 rebounds, Green dazzled all over the floor with his fourth career postseason triple-double, and the Warriors thoroughly outplayed the New Orleans Pelicans for a 123-101 win in Game 1 of their Western Conference semifinals Saturday night.
Green finished with 16 points, 15 rebounds, 11 assists, three steals and two blocks, and just with his hustle and energy he helped the defending champions pull away with a superb, decisive second quarter.
“If we can push the tempo and try to get stuff in transition that’s big for us, so that was key and obviously that starts with stops,” Green said.
Curry returned to full practice with contact on Thursday and only scrimmaged 5 on 5 for the first time Friday, and Coach Steve Kerr prefers that Curry get additional on-court time at full speed Sunday.
“We’ve adjusted to life without him. Hopefully he comes back Tuesday, but we still have to have the same mind-set if he isn’t,” Klay Thompson said. “Even if he does come back, it’s natural human emotion to be kind of relaxed because we have so much production coming back in our lineup, but that’s going to be a test for us just to put that away in our minds and just focus on the task at hand and not depend on Steph to save the day. He’s done it plenty of times. but we have a very deep team, playmakers all around.”
Thompson, who led Golden State with 27 points, hit back-to-back 3-pointers late in the first half that made it 76-48. But New Orleans ended the second on a 7-0 run. and Darius Miller’s 73-foot heave at the halftime buzzer counted, getting the Pelicans within 76-55 at the break. They hit another buzzer-beater to end the third, but by then it was way too late.
“The bottom line is he almost had a triple-double by halftime. That’s not a good situation for us,” Gentry said.
Nick Young started at forward for the Warriors while Andre Iguodala remained in the starting lineup in place of Curry as Golden State won a franchise-record 13th straight postseason home game.
The Warriors swept the Pelicans in the only other playoff meeting between the franchises: in the 2015 first round as Golden State went on to capture its first championship in 40 years.
Golden State had its highest-ever scoring postseason first half as well as second quarter. The 76 points topped 73 against Phoenix on May 4, 1994, while 41 in the second bested the 40 scored against Utah on May 11, 2007.
Golden State shot 13 for 20 in the second, making four 3s and 11 of 14 free throws.