Warriors ready to have a blast

New Orleans' Anthony Davis (above left) and E'Twaun Moore trying to stop Golden State's Stephen Curry. Curry will be playing in his fourth straight Conference Finals after the Warriors won the semi-final series against the Pelicans 4-1.
New Orleans' Anthony Davis (above left) and E'Twaun Moore trying to stop Golden State's Stephen Curry. Curry will be playing in his fourth straight Conference Finals after the Warriors won the semi-final series against the Pelicans 4-1.PHOTO: REUTERS

Fit-again Curry & Co relish big clash with Rockets; Paul makes 1st Conference Finals

LOS ANGELES • Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors will face the Houston Rockets for a place in the National Basketball Association (NBA) Finals after the Western Conference heavyweights wrapped up series wins on Tuesday.

Curry led the scoring for the reigning NBA champions Warriors in a 113-104 victory over the New Orleans Pelicans in Oakland, sealing the best-of-seven series 4-1.

The Warriors will now travel to top-seeded Houston for Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals on Monday.

The Rockets had earlier booked their place in the Conference Finals with a 112-102 win over the Utah Jazz to also take their series 4-1.

"It's been a long time since we've seen them, but we know they are a great team," Warriors coach Steve Kerr said of the Rockets, who triumphed 2-1 against his team in the regular season.

"We know they are ready, and we'll be ready for them."


LOOKING OMINOUS

That's a big-time performance. He had a look in his eyes. And if he has that look in his eyes, he's a problem.

'' JAMES HARDEN, Houston Rockets guard, on how his team-mate Chris Paul (above) can be a big threat to opponents.

While Houston will have home-court advantage after finishing the regular season on top of the Western Conference, the Warriors once again showed signs that they are peaking at the right time.

The fit-again Curry played 37 minutes, and was heavily involved in a devastating burst of scoring in the third quarter which ultimately took the game away from the Pelicans.

He finished with 28 points, while Kevin Durant had 24 and Klay Thompson added 23.

The Warriors' 15th straight home play-off win also tied the NBA record set by the Chicago Bulls in 1990-91.

There was a late scare for Kerr's side, however, as the Pelicans staged a late rally, stitching together an 18-2 spurt to close within seven points at 107-100 with 1min 43sec left. But Draymond Green, who had 19 points, came up with two crucial late scores to see the Warriors home safely.

"We thought we had the game in hand," Kerr added. "We got a little tired and a little rattled and we didn't finish the game the way we wanted to.

"But our guys have reached the Conference Finals four years in a row now, so they should be really proud of themselves."

Kerr was also happy with the form of Curry, who looked to be back to full fitness following his knee injury layoff.

Durant was ready to face the Rockets in the big clash.

"I just try to stay in the moment. Anything could happen, but this is the match-up, and both teams are looking forward to going up and competing and having some fun," he said.

In Texas, Chris Paul scored 41 points as Houston made sure of their place in the Conference Finals. The 33-year-old's game-winning display left him contemplating his first career appearance in a Conference Finals.

Rockets star James Harden, who was kept quiet with a relatively modest haul of 18 points, paid tribute to Paul's performance.

"He was unbelievable," Harden said afterwards. "He went out there and took over the game. That's a big-time performance. He had a look in his eyes. And if he has that look in his eyes, he's a problem."

Paul, meanwhile, played down his personal contribution to the victory, even though his 41 points marked a career high in a play-off game.

"It's just fun," he said. "It's not about points, it's about the process."

When asked how he felt about getting the chance to play in his first Conference Finals, he said: "Who plays just for that?

"Know what I'm saying? We've got eight more wins to get. I don't know what it's supposed to feel like, but we've still got a lot of work to do."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 10, 2018, with the headline 'Warriors ready to have a blast'. Print Edition | Subscribe