NBA Playoffs: Warriors beat Trailblazers; Wizards, Bulls win
The Golden State Warriors clamped down in the fourth quarter to pull away to a 121-109 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers on Sunday in game one of their NBA playoff series.
Golden State, aiming to get back to the NBA finals for a third straight year and regain the crown they surrendered last season to the Cleveland Cavaliers, had 32 points from Kevin Durant in his first playoff game as a Warrior.
Stephen Curry added 29. Draymond Green was everywhere, finishing with 19 points, 12 rebounds, nine assists, five blocked shots and three steals for the Warriors.
Golden State withstood 75 combined points from the Trail Blazers duo of Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum to triumph in a game that saw 22 lead changes.
They were tied at halftime and knotted at 88-88 after three quarters.
But the Warriors opened the fourth frame with a 15-2 scoring run to seize control.
Backup point guard Ian Clark contributed seven points in the flurry, but it was increased defensive pressure that really turned the tide.
“We let them get to their spots in the first half,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “they still made some tough shots, which they’re going to do. I thought we did a better job in the second half of being a little more physical.”
The Trail Blazers pulled within 105-99 with 5:16 to play. But Green tipped in a Curry miss and Durant produced three straight baskets to stretch Golden State’s lead to 113-99 with 3:36 remaining.
Durant, acquired as a free agent after the Warriors’ loss to the Cavs in last year’s finals, connected on 12 of his 20 shots and also pulled down 10 rebounds.
Game two of the series, a rematch of a Western Conference semi-final last season, is on Wednesday.
It’s not clear if the Blazers could have centre Jusuf Nurkic back by then from a broken leg that saw him miss the last seven games of the regular season as well as Sunday’s game.
“Hopefully he’ll be back at some point during the series,” Blazers coach Terry Stotts said.
Elsewhere in the West, the Rockets and Oklahoma City Thunder tipped off in a series featuring the top contenders in the Most Valuable Player race — Thunder star Russell Westbrook and the Rockets’ James Harden.
Sunday’s Eastern Conference action got underway in Washington, where John Wall scored 15 of his 32 points in a dominant third quarter to lead the Wizards to a 114-107 victory over the Atlanta Hawks in their series opener.
Wall also handed out 14 assists while teammate Bradley Beal scored 22 points and Markieff Morris added 21.
German guard Dennis Schroder led the Hawks with 25 points and Paul Millsap had 19. Atlanta made 32 of 39 free throws, but connected on just 43.6 percent of their shots from the floor and turned the ball over 21 times.
In a back and forth battle, the Hawks led 48-45 at halftime. But the Wizards, seeded fourth in the East after missing the playoffs last year, out-scored Atlanta 38-28 in the third and led by as many as 15 points in the fourth quarter.
In Boston, Celtics scoring dynamo Isaiah took to the court for game one against the Chicago Bulls despite the death of his 22-year-old sister Chyna Thomas in a road accident in their home state of Washington on Saturday. The Bulls beat the Celtics, 106-102.
“He’s really hurt,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said of Thomas. “It’s a tough situation.”
Thomas received a heart-warming standing ovation from the crowd and wore a pair of shoes with his sister’s name pencilled on them.
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