BY DANIEL GLUSKOTER
Facing the same New Orleans Pelicans team that torched them for 126 points on the Oracle court just three weeks earlier, the Golden State Warriors rode a swarming defense and big game performances from their soon to be expanding cast of All-Stars to post an impressive 123-101 victory in the opening game of their Western Conference semi-final playoff series.
Returning to the court four days after the conclusion of their five game series against the San Antonio Spurs, the Warriors broke open a close game by shooting 65% in the second quarter with the help of a 24-2 run on the way to a 41 point quarter and franchise record setting 76 point first half.
The Pelicans were dominant in their opening-round sweep of the Portland Trail Blazers, their first victory in a playoff series since 2008, but appeared somewhat rusty and out of synch after a week long layoff. The Warriors stretched their lead to 103-74 after the third quarter and both teams relied on their reserves during the final 12 minute stanza that was basically garbage time.
It was the 13th consecutive home playoff win for Golden State, two shy of the NBA record, along with their eighth consecutive Game 1 win. With all signs pointing to Steph Curry returning to the court on Tuesday for Game 2 following a six week layoff, the Warriors are once again looking like a team capable of winning their third NBA title in four seasons.
Klay Thompson and Kevin Durant led all scorers with 27 and 26 points respectively, but it was Draymond Green who set the tone with his stifling defense on the Pelicans soon to be named All-NBA first team center Anthony Davis, frustrating the taller Davis and keeping him from exercising the same dominance he showed against Portland.
Green was a spark in every facet of the game, finishing the opening half just two assists short of a triple double, a feat he accomplished in the early minutes of the third quarter while playing a total of only 30 minutes for the game. He finished with 16 points to go along with 15 rebounds and 11 assists. It was his third straight playoff game with 15 or more rebounds, and his fourth career playoff triple-double, making him the Warriors all-time leader in that category.
Warriors coach Steve Kerr, asked after the game if he allowed himself to enjoy his teams dominant second quarter, responded “Of course, how could I not enjoy that ? That was an amazing 12 minute run. Combination of offense and defense, I think we had one turnover in the whole quarter and ten assists and the ball was moving and it all started with our defense, and Draymond is always in the center of our defensive effort. I thought he and KD, both, really keyed that sequence, or the whole quarter with their defense and rebounding and getting out and running.”
Kerr added, “That was probably the loudest I’ve heard the Oracle all year. It was kind of a weird regular season but the playoffs are here and our guys feel that, and that second quarter reflected what’s at stake and what we’re trying to accomplish. So the crowd was into it. Our bench was great. That’s what makes it fun when you see that.”
Davis led the Pelicans with 21 points and 10 rebounds while Rajon Rondo dished out 11 assists. The series is set to resume with Game 2 scheduled for 7:30 pm Tuesday night at Oracle.