Los Angeles (AFP) – The Golden State Warriors and Houston Rockets both raced to a pair of lopsided wins on Sunday and can book their spots in the Western Conference final with victories on their home courts on Tuesday.
Kevin Durant scored 38 points to power the reigning NBA champion Warriors over the New Orleans Pelicans 118-92 and Chris Paul finished with 27 points and 12 rebounds as the Rockets defeated the Utah Jazz 100-87.
Durant said his free form game plan allowed him to be aggressive and effective at the same time.
“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. I just try to play with force no matter if I missed shots or not, just keep shooting, keep being aggressive.”
Stephen Curry added 23 points as the Warriors seized a 3-1 lead in their best-of-seven second-round series.
The Warriors are seeking a fourth consecutive trip to the NBA finals and their third crown in four seasons.
Curry said the key was getting the ball to their hottest player, Durant.
“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 host Pelicans, led by 26 points and 12 rebounds from Anthony Davis, never led while Golden State stretched the lead to as many as 26 points.
Durant added nine rebounds while Draymond Green had eight points, nine rebounds and nine assists for the Warriors. Klay Thompson added 13 points and Quinn Cook added 12 off the bench.
The Warriors limited Pelicans difference makers Rajon Rondo and Nikola Mirotic to just six and seven points. New Orleans made four of 26 attempts from three-point range.
Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry said they have to get more scoring from multiple players to win.
“I told you right from the start. You’re not going to beat them if you can’t score 115 points,” Gentry said. “I don’t care how good your defence is. I don’t care what you do. You have to be able to score 110, 115 points to have any chance to beat them.”
In Utah, NBA veteran Paul, celebrating his 33rd birthday, also had 12 rebounds while James Harden scored 24 points to power the Rockets to a 3-1 series lead.
– ‘Crazy game’ –
“It was an emotional, crazy game,” said Paul, who is in his first season with the Rockets.
Clint Capela tallied 12 points, 15 rebounds and six blocks in the win.
Paul powered the offence and when he combined with Harden they were impossible to defend against.
“There are different ways to win,” said Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni. “We got a lot of stuff we can go to. The plan was to get that, so we wouldn’t be a one dimensional team.”
Donovan Mitchell scored 25 points and Joe Ingles finished with 15 for Utah.