NEW ORLEANS – The Golden State Warriors played the kind of basketball that has defined their championship reign: total domination.
Golden State cruised to a 118-92 rout of the New Orleans Pelicans on Sunday afternoon in Game 4 of the Western Conference semifinals to take a 3-1 series lead.
After a porous effort in a Game 3 defeat, the Warriors knew they had to set a better tone against a Pelicans group that came in brimming with confidence.
Mission accomplished for the defending champs.
Kevin Durant dominated offensively to the tune of 38 points, 9 rebounds and 5 assists while Stephen Curry added 23 points of his own, but it was the Warriors’ engaged defense – absent throughout Game 3 – that made the biggest difference.
Warriors head coach Steve Kerr added his own tone-setter prior to the game by inserting veteran Andre Iguodala into the starting lineup. The change paid immediate dividends, as the Warriors raced out to an 18-point, first-half lead that they never relinquished despite a short burst by the Pelicans at the end of the half.
Pelicans star Anthony Davis had his usual box score-stuffing performance with 26 points and 12 rebounds, but he went just 8-for-22 from the field. The Warriors’ defense gave the Pelicans fits throughout the day, forcing the high-flying group into tough shots and some mental mistakes.
The Pelicans came into the game averaging 123 points per game in their first three home playoff games this postseason, according to ESPN Stats & Information research, good for first in the NBA. That scoring momentum disappeared early Sunday as the Warriors committed to changing the game on the defensive end.
After shooting an average of 53.3 percent from the field in their first three playoff home games, the Pelicans had one of their worst shooting games of the year, going just 37.5 percent from the field.
Aside from continuously throwing bodies at Davis and clogging his airspace, the key differences for the Warriors came in limiting Pelicans difference-makers Rajon Rondo and Nikola Mirotic.
Rondo, who had 21 assists in Game 3, shot just 2-for-10 from the field and had only six assists, while Mirotic went just 1-for-7 from the field as the Golden State defense swarmed both players.
The Warriors have a chance to close this series out on Tuesday night in Oakland and clinch a berth in the Western Conference finals.
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