OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) – Stephen Curry is back doing everything with fire, flair and without fear after impatiently spending almost a month and a half on the sidelines.
Curry played his most minutes since missing nearly six weeks with a knee injury, finishing with 28 points and helping the Golden State Warriors advance to the Western Conference finals for a fourth straight year by dismantling Anthony Davis and the New Orleans Pelicans 113-104 in Game 5 on Tuesday night.
“I think Coach did a great job though of just giving him a little bit here and there and tonight really just letting him go,” Kevin Durant said. “You see when you let the dog off the leash what happens.”
Durant scored 24 points and Klay Thompson added 23 for the Warriors, who with a 15th straight home playoff win tied Chicago for an NBA record. The Bulls did so from April 27, 1990 to May 21, 1991.
Davis had 34 points and 19 rebounds for a Pelicans team that overcame the loss of DeMarcus Cousins to a season-ending torn Achilles tendon three months ago to make this strong run. The Pelicans shaved the lead to seven points with two minutes left on a basket by Davis before Draymond Green’s turnaround fadeaway moments later.
Curry has his swagger.
“I feel confident in what I’m able to do out there,” Curry said. “Timing could still get a little bit better with the ball and things like that when you start to get so excited, still when I’m out there missing six weeks is still appreciative of being out there playing. I’ll continue to get better, continue to get my timing right, continue to get back to the normal rotation, the normal minutes I’m out there playing and hopefully won’t look back.”
The Warriors advance to play the top-seeded Houston Rockets in what has long been an anticipated Western Conference finals matchup — with a Finals feel, perhaps. The series starts Monday night in Houston. The teams didn’t meet during the 2017 postseason, but the Warriors won a five-game series in the first round of the 2016 playoffs. Houston eliminated Utah in its Game 5 earlier Tuesday.
“We want to win another championship,” Green said, “and it don’t matter who’s in the way of that.”
Curry, who returned for Game 2 after nearly six weeks out with a knee injury, knocked down an open 3-pointer midway through the third and raised his hands to get the crowd going, then made another less than two minutes later. He converted three free throws at the 6:25 mark following a hard foul by Jrue Holiday.
In the second quarter, Holiday shoved Curry hard into the basket, enraging the two-time MVP who let the officials know how upset he was by the push and no call.
Holiday contributed 27 points and 11 assists, but even with better shooting, New Orleans couldn’t stay with deep, score-at-will Golden State.
“No matter what the score is, no matter the time, whatever it is, we play desperate,” Holiday said.
The defending champions are serious about a repeat title and took one step closer to that goal.
So far this postseason, with Durant and Green leading the way, the Warriors have admirably defended the slower San Antonio Spurs and now the imposing, push-the-pace Pelicans.
Green had another superb all-around night on both ends with 19 points, 14 rebounds, nine assists, three steals and two blocked shots.
The Warriors came out of halftime with a 10-0 run over the opening 1:54, forcing two Pelicans timeouts and taking control for the rest of the game.
Thompson hit back-to-back 3-pointers midway through the first to put Golden State up 17-10, the second right in front of his own bench as teammates erupted in celebration. He began 6 for 9 and had 14 points by the 4:10 mark of the first.
Durant became irate when Nikola Mirotic made a late, hard bump on a 3-point try with 5:23 left in the first — a play that was reviewed and Mirotic received just a common foul.
As Durant took free throws, Green tried to listen in on the Pelicans’ huddle before official Josh Tiven pulled him away.
“I don’t have a reaction, that’s Draymond,” New Orleans coach Alvin Gentry said. “Should that surprise me?”
Curry went 10 for 16 in 37 minutes playing his fourth game back from a sprained left knee he hurt March 23. His minutes have increased each game he plays, up to 31 in Game 4 and 37 on Tuesday. He added eight assists and seven rebounds in Game 5.
He was 32 for 67 with 15 3s in the series.
“It feels like he’s back now,” coach Steve Kerr said.
On a side note, he went 0 for 5 on his signature tunnel shots before the game.
Pelicans: Rajon Rondo dealt with a sore groin that limited his time in the second half. New Orleans made 6 of 9 3s in the first and finished 10 for 24 from long range. New Orleans got back in it with an 11-0 run in the second.
Warriors: Green is the first Warrior to ever average a triple-double in a playoff series. Durant scored 20 or more points in a 17th straight postseason game. His first five points moved him past two players — Chris Mullin (685) and Harrison Barnes (687) — into 10th place all-time for the Warriors in postseason scoring. Curry (366) passed Paul Arizin (364) for second place on the franchise postseason list for made free throws. Durant received the Al Attles Community Impact Award in a pregame ceremony. The Warriors Community Foundation will donate $15,000 to the charity Durant chose, Oakland Elizabeth House, which provides residences to women and children who have been homeless or faced violence or addiction.
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