OAKLAND, United States: The Golden State Warriors powered to a big lead Saturday (Sunday in Manila), but had to battle late to hold off the New Orleans Pelicans 106-99
in the first game of the National Basketball Association (NBA) Western Conference playoffs.
Stephen Curry scored 34 points and the Warriors looked like living up to their status as the top team in the regular-season with a blowout.
But the battle-hardened Pelicans, who didn’t lock up the last playoff berth in the West until the final night of the regular season, just wouldn’t go away.
New Orleans put together a 14-0 scoring run bridging the third and fourth quarters, trimming a 25-point deficit to 11.
Curry and Klay Thompson responded for Golden State, draining back-to-back three-pointers to launch a 7-0 run for the hosts.
The Pelicans fashioned a 7-0 run of their own to pull within 93-83 with less than four minutes to play.
New Orleans trimmed the deficit to four in the final minute, but couldn’t get any closer.
“Obviously the first three were a lot better than the fourth,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said.
But he added that the bit of adversity could serve as a useful motivator for his team, who host game two in the best-of-seven series on Monday (Tuesday in Manila).
“It was good for us to feel that,” Kerr said. “We missed a lot of free throws that made it closer than it needed to be.”
Draymond Green scored 15 points, pulled down 12 rebounds and handed out seven assists for Golden State who got 12 points, 14 rebounds and five assists from Aussie big man Andrew Bogut.
Anthony Davis came up big in his playoff debut for New Orleans, scoring 20 of his 35 points in the fourth quarter.
Elsewhere in the West, James Harden had 24 points and 11 assists for Houston as the Rockets launched their playoff campaign with a 118-108 victory over Dallas.
Harden became the first Rockets player to record at least 20 points and 10 assists in a post-season game since Tracy McGrady in 2007.
But he had plenty of help from his teammates.
Terrence Jones finished with 19 points, nine rebounds and six assists while Trevor Ariza scored 12 points, pulled down 11 rebounds and handed out six assists.
Dwight Howard added 11 points and five blocks despite foul trouble, and Jason Terry made four three-pointers for the second-seeded Rockets.
Mavericks star Dirk Nowitzki connected on 10-of-14 shots from the floor en route to 24 points and Tyson Chandler had 11 points and 18 rebounds in the setback.
The Rockets will try to stretch their lead in the series when they host game two on Tuesday (Wednesday in Manila).