New Orleans— Kevin Durant made his approach to taking over a pivotal NBA playoff game sound so simple — and look that way, too.
“I just try to tell myself that I’m at my best when I don’t care what happens after the game, the outcome or anything,” Durant said. “That’s when I’m free and having fun out there, and forceful. That was thing — just try to play with force no matter if I missed shots or not, just keep shooting, keep being aggressive.”
Durant scored Golden State’s first two baskets on pull-up jumpers of 21 and 15 feet before a minute-and-a-half had elapsed in Game 4 of the Warriors’ Western Conference semifinal series against New Orleans on Sunday. He finished with 38 points on 15-of-27 shooting to go with nine rebounds, and Golden State soundly defeated the Pelicans, 118-92, to take a commanding 3-1 series lead back to the West Coast.
Warriors guard Stephen Curry said it was apparent early that getting the ball to Durant would be wise.
“Just find ways to get him in scoring positions,” Curry said. “Sometimes, that’s not really hard to do — just throw it to him.
“Just keep the game simple at that point because he’s such a great scorer, you don’t have to really overthink things.”
The Warriors lost by 19 in Game 3 Friday and the Pelicans were looking to even the series. Instead, the Warriors responded with a resounding effort that produced a wire-to-wire win with leads as large as 26 points. Curry scored 23, Klay Thompson added 13 and Quinn Cook, who was a Pelicans reserve earlier this season, contributed 12 points.
Anthony Davis had 26 points and 12 rebounds for New Orleans, but the Pelicans hit only 36 percent (32 of 88) of their shots, missing 22 of 26 3-point attempts.
Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry said Golden State’s defense “had a lot to do with” the Pelicans’ poor shooting.
“We didn’t have the looks we normally have,” he said. “We pressed a little bit when we got behind.”
E’Twaun Moore scored 20 and Jrue Holiday 19, but New Orleans reserves combined for just 14 points after scoring 32 two nights earlier. Rajon Rondo finished with 11 rebounds but had only six assists after racking up 21 in Game 3. The Pelicans also committed 19 turnovers, which led 21 Warriors points.
“We missed a lot of easy shots, a couple game-plan discipline mistakes early on and they came out on fire,” Davis said. “We just can’t afford to shoot that poorly.
“But we’ve got another one,” Davis added. “Any time we’ve been punched in the mouth, we’ve always responded very well.”
More Western Conference semifinals
Houston 100, (at) Utah 87: Chris Paul had 27 points and 12 rebounds while James Harden scored 24 points to power the Rockets to a win over the Jazz, taking a 3-1 lead in the Western Conference semifinal series.
Paul, playing the sidekick to Harden for most of his first season in Houston, took center stage, controlling the tempo and getting to his favorite spots as the Rockets led from start to finish.
Donovan Mitchell scored 25 before fouling out and Joe Ingles had 15 for the Jazz.
Mitchell started finding lanes to the basket late and got the Jazz within 85-80 after he fueled a 10-2 run. But Paul, who matched his scoring high for this playoff run, hit a pull-up jumper and found Trevor Ariza for a 3-pointer to put the Rockets back up by double digits and they never looked back.
Houston, which has been known for their offensive firepower, put forth a disruptive defensive effort.
Clint Capela, the anchor of the Houston defense, had 12 points, 15 rebounds and six blocks, one of which featured a Dikembe Mutombo-like finger wag in the fourth quarter.