Early blitz lifts Warriors to Game 1 victory over Pelicans 

click to enlarge Warriors guard Klay Thompson, right, shoots over the Pelicans’ Norris Cole (30) and Quincy Pondexter during Saturday’s playoff game. - MARCIO JOSE SANCHEZ/AP
  • Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP
  • Warriors guard Klay Thompson, right, shoots over the Pelicans’ Norris Cole (30) and Quincy Pondexter during Saturday’s playoff game.

OAKLAND — Whaddya say, New Orleans Pelicans? Are you sure you want to do this playoff thing now?

The team formerly known as the Hornets didn't look the part for three quarters at Oracle Arena on Saturday, when the Warriors began their march to the NBA championship much like they had closed the regular season.

The scoreboard said Warriors 106, Pelicans 99, but don't believe it. The Western Conference's top playoff seed wasted no time to set the early tone, then toyed with the visitors the rest of the way. The Warriors led for all except the opening 2 minutes, 32 seconds of the game.

Except for another burp in the fourth quarter, Warriors coach Steve Kerr had no real complaints.

"Well, obviously, the first three [quarters] were a lot better than the fourth," said Kerr, whose team led by as many as 25 points. "But it was good for us to feel that. It's good for us to have to deal with the feeling in the building, especially as a favorite, when a team starts to come back."

Every Warriors starter scored in double figures. Stephen Curry led the way with 34 points on 13-of-25 shooting. Sidekick Klay Thompson added 20 but missed 11 of 17 field-goal tries. Draymond Green had 15 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists, while Andrew Bogut was a beast inside with a game-high 14 rebounds and two blocked shots.

Curry's only disappointment came at the free-throw line, where he missed as many as three (in seven tries) for the first time this season. The team shot 21-of-34 overall.

"Awful," Curry called his performance at the foul line. "I missed three. Klay missed [three]. We'll fix that. We're going to need those extra points down the stretch in the playoffs. We'll be all right."

Pelicans big man Anthony Davis played as advertised. He shook off a slow start to score 35 points and grab nine rebounds. Quincy Pondexter finished with 20 points and nine rebounds.

"I got some butterflies," Kerr confessed beforehand. "I think everybody does. It feels a lot like opening night. The playoffs are kind of a new season, and you sort of feel the energy, feel the nerves. And that's a good thing. It's part of being ready and being prepared."

Make no mistake about it — the Warriors were prepared for the start of the second season.

As Kerr and his staff were well aware, the Pelicans entered the series with almost no playoff experience to speak of. Only Pondexter (25 games), Omer Asik (33 games) and reserve Norris Cole (60) had been down this path on a semiregular basis.

For the Pelicans to make it a series, Davis, Tyreke Evans and Eric Gordon have to pack their A games. Except that all of them were playoff virgins before the weekend. Evans was limited to 11 minutes after he heard "a little pop" in his left knee in the second quarter. He was scheduled to undergo an MRI in advance of Monday's Game 2.

So the Warriors' game plan was relatively simple. Jump on the visitors from the start. Overwhelm them. Don't give them any crazy ideas that this can be a series.

"Experience is a bit of a factor, but at the end of the day, you still have to play the game," Curry said. "After Game 1 and Game 2, you kind of get adjusted to what the games are going to be like. Hopefully, we'll get a head start on them with the experience we have."

There's an adage that you don't know what the playoffs are about until you actually play in them. The Warriors know this well. After all, they were in the Pelicans' sneakers not long ago.

"You don't know what it's about, but it's still basketball," Curry said. "Two years ago, we were in that same situation against Denver and found a way to get it done, so ..."

But these Pelicans aren't those Warriors. And these Warriors sure as heck aren't the those Nuggets.

That fact was obvious from the outset. If Kerr had butterflies in his tummy, then the Pelicans had wasps in theirs. They blew defensive assignments. They bricked shots. Jrue Holiday hoisted an airball that could have killed somebody in the four-figure seats.

By the time the first 12 minutes were over, the Warriors had a 28-13 stranglehold and another team record — fewest points allowed in one quarter in a playoff game.

The statement play of Game 1 took place moments later. Late in the second quarter, Curry drove in from the right side, Davis in hot pursuit behind him. While Davis swatted him across the head on a block attempt, the soon-to-be Most Valuable Player flipped the ball high off the backboard and through the hoop. While the crowd roared in approval, Curry blew past bewildered Pelicans coach Monty Williams without so much as a look.

Now the Warriors can all but put the series to bed in Game 2 at Oracle Arena on Monday.

pladewski@sfexaminer.com

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