Warriors hold off Spurs, will take on Pelicans in semi-final

OAKLAND (California) • The Golden State Warriors responded to their first loss of the post-season with a championship-type defensive effort on Tuesday night, beating the San Antonio Spurs 99-91 to complete a 4-1 win in the first round of the National Basketball Association (NBA) play-offs in Oakland.

Kevin Durant had a team-high 25 points, Klay Thompson added 24 and Draymond Green had a 17-point, 19-rebound double-double for the Warriors, who won their 12th straight home play-off game.

The defending champions, seeded second in the West, advance to a semi-final against the sixth-seeded New Orleans Pelicans, who scored a surprising four-game sweep against the third-seeded Portland Trail Blazers.

The best-of-seven series will open in Oakland on Saturday, with Golden State holding the home-court advantage.

"It was fun watching them play," Warriors coach Steve Kerr said of the Pelicans. "But it's not going to be as much fun playing against them because they play at a high level and present a lot of problems."

The Spurs fell 16 points back late in the third quarter before making a furious rally down the stretch.

Two free throws by LaMarcus Aldridge got San Antonio within 93-91 with 57.2 seconds to play, but Durant countered with an 18-footer with 36.1 seconds left, and the Spurs never scored again.

San Antonio's 91-point total equalled their lowest in the post-season since being held to 90 in a first-round series in 2014.

The Spurs were eliminated in the first round of the play-offs for just the fifth time in the past 21 years as their coach Gregg Popovich missed his third straight game following the death of his wife, Erin.

Kerr paid tribute to the Spurs. "They put up a hell of a fight tonight. They are obviously a championship organisation, and they are a reflection of their coach," he said.

"Pop, if you're watching out there, we love you. Your team reflected who you are tonight. They battled every step of the way."

In the Eastern Conference, the Philadelphia 76ers defeated the Miami Heat 104-91 to clinch the first-round play-off series 4-1.

The Sixers will meet either the second-seeded Boston Celtics or the seventh-seeded Milwaukee Bucks. The Celtics beat the Bucks 92-87 to lead 3-2.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 26, 2018, with the headline 'Warriors hold off Spurs, will take on Pelicans in semi-final'. Print Edition | Subscribe