The Associated Press 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.
“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.
Rockets power past Jazz
HOUSTON (AP) — Chris Paul didn’t want to talk about his postseason failures, not after Houston’s win Tuesday over Utah finally got him into the Western Conference finals.
“For us it was just ... they were in the way,” Paul said. “So we were just trying to get another win.”
His Rockets teammates saw it a little differently. They were eager to talk about Paul’s dominant performance, including a playoff career-high 41 points, in a 112-102 victory in Game 5 that eliminated the Jazz.
“He went out there and took over the game,” James Harden said. “(To have) an opportunity for him that he’s never had before. He went to go get it. He put us all on his back and said listen: ‘I got us.’”
Paul made eight 3-pointers and had 10 assists and seven rebounds without a turnover. He’s the first player in playoff history to have at least 40 points and 10 assists without a turnover since turnovers became an official statistic in 1977-78, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
“The performance that Chris put out there — if he didn’t make it out this time, something’s wrong,” coach Mike D’Antoni said.
It will be Houston’s second trip to the Western Conference finals in four years and the first ever for Paul. The point guard, who is in his 13th NBA season, has been panned for failing to get past the second round in his nine previous trips to the playoffs.
While he wouldn’t talk about finally getting over the second-round hump, he had no problem discussing how much he’s enjoying this season.
“It’s just fun,” he said. “It’s not about the points or anything like that. It’s about the process.”
Paul is a nine-time All-Star in his first season with Houston after an offseason trade from the Los Angeles Clippers. His previous career-best in the playoffs was 35 points, which he accomplished three times.
Star rookie Donovan Mitchell had 22 of his 24 points for Utah in the third quarter before leaving with about seven minutes left with an apparent left leg injury. The team didn’t provide an update on his condition after the game, but he was wearing a walking boot on his left foot.Speech