The Golden State Warriors became the first team to punch their ticket to the second round of the NBA playoffs on Saturday with a 109-98 victory over New Orleans.
The Warriors, with Stephen Curry again leading the way, completed a four-game sweep of the Pelicans in the best-of-seven Western Conference first-round series. "I'm proud of the way we played, the way we competed. Now we'll rest up and get ready for the next round," said Curry.
Golden State will next face either the Memphis Grizzlies or Portland Trail Blazers. The Grizzlies kept the momentum of their two home wins to open the series, holding off the Trail Blazers 115-109 in Portland on Saturday to take a commanding 3-0 lead in their set.
Although no team has come back from an 0-3 deficit to win an NBA playoff series, Memphis could find themselves trying to finish off Portland without point guard Mike Conley, who departed Saturday's game early with a possible eye injury after taking an inadvertent elbow to the face from CJ McCollum.
A bleeding Conley was helped to the locker room and later taken to hospital for evaluation. Spain's Marc Gasol registered 25 points, seven rebounds and four assists for the Grizzlies.
Courtney Lee had 20 points and Zach Randolph added 16 for Memphis, who will try to wrap up the series in game four on Monday.
Portland's Nicolas Batum led all scorers with 27 points. McCollum added 26 points and Damian Lillard scored 22 points and handed out nine assists in the defeat.
In New Orleans, Curry scored 39 points, pulled down eight rebounds and handed out nine assists for the Warriors, who took a double-digit lead into the fourth quarter.
Although the desperate Pelicans managed to whittle the gap to as few as seven points, it was a vastly more comfortable affair than the Warriors' game-three win, in which they overcame a 20-point deficit.
Klay Thompson scored 25 points and Draymond Green scored 20 of his 22 points in the first half.
Green also delivered 10 rebounds and eight assists for the Warriors, who posted their first sweep of a seven-game series since they won the 1975 NBA finals.
"First of all I want to congratulate Monty (Williams) and (the Pelicans). The team we saw this past week was not the one we saw in the regular season," Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. "They were really, really tough ... We were very fortunate to sweep."
Pelicans star Anthony Davis contributed 36 points, 11 rebounds and three blocks and Eric Gordon chipped in 29 points.
But New Orleans, who nabbed the final playoff spot in the West on the final night of the regular season, couldn't get the win they needed to stay alive.
"Our guys just fought all year long, and we say it all the time that life is not fair so don't expect it to be," New Orleans coach Williams said. "And some of the shots Curry made were not fair."