NEW ORLEANS — Kevin Durant made his approach to taking over a pivotal NBA playoff game sound so simple — and look that way, too.
“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. That was thing — just try to play with force no matter if I missed shots or not, just keep shooting, keep being aggressive.”
Durant scored Golden State’s first two baskets on pull-up jumpers of 21 and 15 feet before a minute-and-a-half had elapsed in Game 4 of the Warriors’ Western Conference semifinal series against New Orleans on Sunday. He finished with 38 points on 15-of-27 shooting to go with nine rebounds, and Golden State soundly defeated the Pelicans 118-92 to take a commanding 3-1 series lead back to the West Coast.
Warriors guard Stephen Curry said it was apparent early that getting the ball to Durant would be wise.
“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 Warriors lost by 19 in Game 3 Friday and the Pelicans were looking to even the series. Instead, the Warriors responded with a resounding effort that produced a wire-to-wire win with leads as large as 26 points. Curry scored 23, Klay Thompson added 13 and Quinn Cook, who was a Pelicans reserve earlier this season, contributed 12 points.
Anthony Davis had 26 points and 12 rebounds for New Orleans, but the Pelicans hit only 36 percent (32 of 88) of their shots, missing 22 of 26 3-point attempts.
Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry said Golden State’s defense “had a lot to do with” the Pelicans’ poor shooting.
“We didn’t have the looks we normally have,” he said. “We pressed a little bit when we got behind.”
E’Twaun Moore scored 20 and Jrue Holiday 19, but New Orleans reserves combined for just 14 points after scoring 32 two nights earlier. Rajon Rondo finished with 11 rebounds but had only six assists after racking up 21 in Game 3. The Pelicans also committed 19 turnovers, which led 21 Warriors points.
“We missed a lot of easy shots, a couple game-plan discipline mistakes early on and they came out on fire,” Davis said. “We just can’t afford to shoot that poorly
“But we’ve got another one,” Davis added. “Any time we’ve been punched in the mouth, we’ve always responded very well.”
Warriors: Draymond Green had eight points, nine rebounds, nine assists, four steals and two blocks. With his fourth rebound, Green became the third player in Warriors history to reach 800 playoff rebounds. Wilt Chamberlain (922) and Nate Thurmond (896) are the only others. … Green was assessed his first technical foul of the playoffs after he fell to the floor on a Davis layup and no foul was called.
Pelicans: Davis committed six turnovers and Rondo four. … Davis shot 10 of 10 from the foul line. … The Pelicans made 18 of 19 free throws in the first half but finished 24 of 30. … Nikola Mirotic grabbed 11 rebounds but missed six of seven shots to finish with seven points.
After shooting poorly Friday night, the Warriors were eager to regain their rhythm and did so immediately. They hit six of their first eight shots, with Durant making his first three.
“He was attacking tonight right from the beginning and he was brilliant,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “He found better spots on the floor with his aggression and created easier shots for himself.”
Thompson and Curry each added early 3s. That, and solid defense that included Green’s block of Rondo’s layup, helped Golden State open a 10-point lead in the first four minutes.
The Pelicans missed eight of their first 10 shots and trailed 20-6 after Green made Golden State’s fourth 3 of the game.
With good rebounding and free-throw shooting, the Pelicans slowly ground the Warriors’ lead down to seven by halftime — only to have Golden State storm out of the gate in the third quarter.
Kerr went with a different starting lineup for a third consecutive game. Green moved to center after starting at forward in Game 3, 7-foot center JaVale McGee returned to a reserve role and Iguodala, who’d started games 1 and 2, returned to the first unit at forward. Curry, Thompson and Durant rounded out the starting five.
“Obviously, the lineup worked, but it’s not about the lineup,” Kerr asserted. “The effort at both ends tonight was night-and-day from Game 3.
“There’s a good chance I’ll start these same five guys on Tuesday.”
The series returns to Oakland, California, for Game 5 on Tuesday night.