Durant steers Warriors past Spurs, Sixers advance

Kevin Durant (R) high fives Draymond Green as the Golden State Warriors power into the Western Conference playoff semi-finals with a 4-1 series victory over the San Antonio Spurs
AFP

Oakland (United States) (AFP) – Kevin Durant scored 25 points as the Golden State Warriors powered into the Western Conference playoff semi-finals with a 4-1 series victory over the San Antonio Spurs on Tuesday.

The reigning NBA champions, jolted by the Spurs in game four on Sunday, booked their place in the next round with a nervy 99-91 win in front of the home fans at the Oracle Arena.

The Warriors will now face the New Orleans Pelicans for a place in the conference finals.

However Golden State were given a scare after a late fourth quarter rally from San Antonio that threatened to take the best-of-seven series to a game six.

The Spurs chipped away at a double-digit Golden State lead to close to 93-91 with 57 seconds left on the clock.

But Durant delivered when it mattered with a superb fadeaway jump shot and two free throws to take Golden State clear again as the clock ticked down.

Warriors coach Steve Kerr said the Spurs’ battling performance bore the hallmark of counterpart Gregg Popovich, who again was missing from the San Antonio bench following the death of his wife from a long illness last week.

“That was a big-time fight. We’re lucky to get out of here,” Kerr said.

“They’re a championship organisation and they’ve been doing this for a long time. They’re a reflection of their coach.”

Golden State had edged into a 22-20 first quarter lead before stretching away in the second quarter to go into the halftime break 49-38 ahead.

A late flurry in the third quarter, including a Durant three-pointer and a pullup jump shot from Shaun Livingston gave the Warriors a 79-65 lead heading into the final quarter.

With the Warriors still without the injured Stephen Curry, it was left to Klay Thompson and Durant to carry the offense.

Durant finished with six rebounds and five assists while Thompson had 24 points. Draymond Green also contributed 17 points and 19 rebounds.

LaMarcus Aldridge led the scoring for San Antonio with 30 points while Patty Mills had 18. Veteran Manu Ginobili scored 10 off the bench.

– Sixers advance –

Meanwhile in the Eastern Conference on Tuesday, the Philadelphia 76ers wrapped up a 4-1 series win over Miami to progress following a 104-91 victory.

J.J. Redick scored 27 points and Joel Embiid weighed in with 19 as the Sixers set up a second round meeting against either Boston or Milwaukee.

A fiercely contested duel at Philadelphia’s Wells Fargo Center was effectively settled in the third quarter, when the Sixers pulled clear to take a decisive lead.

Prior to that there had been little to separate the two sides, with Miami holding the hosts 46-46 at halftime.

But the Sixers surged into a 66-54 lead after Robert Covington’s three-pointer with 6:11 remaining in the third period.

It was the latest evidence of a remarkable turnaround at the Sixers, who just two years ago had the worst record in the NBA, with just 10 wins against 72 defeats.

Sixers coach Brett Brown said the team was reaping the benefit of a long-term rebuilding strategy.

“I was hired in 2013 and I sat with a few of the owners and we talked about the vision and what we hoped to build,” Brown said.

“And through rough times, through adversity, we didn’t blink. We stayed strong in what we were trying to do. And we’ve got more to do.

“We’ve got more to give. We’re excited for sure.”

Meanwhile Boston edged into a 3-2 series lead after beating Milwaukee 92-87.

Al Horford scored 22 points, 14 rebounds and three assists to lead the scoring for Boston. 

Khris Middleton led the scoring for the Bucks with 23 points while Giannis Antetokounmpo had 16 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists. Jabari Parker had 17 points and eight rebounds.

Game six takes place in Milwaukee on Thursday.

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