Kevin Durant, Warriors Blow Out Anthony Davis, Pelicans to Take 3-1 Series Lead

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured ColumnistMay 6, 2018

NEW ORLEANS, LA - MAY 6: Kevin Durant #35 of the Golden State Warriors handles the ball against the New Orleans Pelicans during Game Four of the Western Conference Semifinals of the 2018 NBA Playoffs on May 6, 2018 at Smoothie King Center in New Orleans, Louisiana. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2018 NBAE (Photo by Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images)
Noah Graham/Getty Images

The Houston Rockets, LeBron James and others have made headlines throughout the NBA playoffs, but the Golden State Warriors sent another reminder to the rest of the league Sunday that the road to the title runs through them.

Golden State handled the New Orleans Pelicans in Game 4 of its second-round playoff series with a 118-92 victory at the Smoothie King Center. The defending champions hold a 3-1 lead in the series and are one win from clinching their fourth straight trip to the Western Conference Finals.

Kevin Durant was brilliant throughout and led the way for Golden State with 38 points, nine rebounds and five assists behind 15-of-27 shooting from the field. Anthony Davis spearheaded New Orleans' effort with a double-double of 26 points and 12 boards.

The Warriors are the NBA's modern measuring stick, but they didn't look the part in a 19-point loss in Game 3. Call it the pride of a champion or simply overwhelming talent shining through, but they wasted little time setting the tone in Game 4 with a commanding 37-22 lead through one quarter.

Head coach Steve Kerr adjusted by inserting Andre Iguodala into the starting lineup to help with spacing, as well as because he's more comfortable on the perimeter than JaVale McGee.

While Iguodala didn't make the difference as a dominant scorer (six points, seven rebounds, six assists, three steals), additional wing players made it all the more difficult for the Pelicans to clog the lane. That allowed Durant to probe off the bounce until he created the sliver of space to consistently drill mid-range looks.

The reigning NBA Finals MVP is more than capable of beating teams with his three-point shot, but he was in attack mode from the start Sunday. That forced New Orleans to shade additional attention his way because it doesn't feature the personnel to stay in front of him, as Shea Serrano of The Ringer pointed out:

Any type of production inside the arc from the Warriors is trouble for opponents because it forces the defense inside and opens up looks from deep for their litany of shooters.

Iguodala, Draymond Green, Durant and Stephen Curry each connected on multiple threes, and it was Curry who hit four on his way to 23 points and another step up the postseason three-point chart:

It was clear the Pelicans didn't have the firepower to keep up in Game 4, but they did battle back after Golden State's scorching start behind their All-Star big man.

Davis helped trim the deficit to four in the second quarter by elevating for lobs, backing down Green on the block and controlling the boards. Both players frequently create matchup problems by extending their offensive attack to the perimeter, but the 6'10" Davis went inside against the 6'7" Green a number of times.

It worked for stretches and even led to a technical foul for the Michigan State product as frustration grew with Davis returning to the line so often (10-of-10 from the charity stripe), but there wasn't enough offense elsewhere to keep pace in the second half. Only E'Twaun Moore (20 points) and Jrue Holiday (19 points) scored more than 11 for New Orleans in the losing effort.

That was far from enough with the Durant show on the other end.

Any time New Orleans built momentum, the four-time scoring champion stopped it with soft touch on a fadeaway from the high elbow, another mid-range dagger or one of his two three-pointers over Davis' outstretched arm just for good measure.

As a result, the Pelicans are on the brink of elimination and will need to win Tuesday's Game 5 at Oracle Arena to keep their season alive.

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