NBA Playoffs: Warriors routs Portland, Butler shines for Bulls

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 its NBA playoff series.

Stephen Curry added 29 for the Golden State Warriors.   -  AFP

 

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 its NBA playoff series.

Golden State, aiming to get back to the NBA finals for a third straight year and regain the crown it 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.

Meanwhile, Jimmy Butler scored 15 of his 30 points in the fourth quarter as the Chicago Bulls held on to beat the Boston Celtics 106-102 in the opener of a first-round Eastern Conference series.

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. “It still made some tough shots, which it is 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 semifinal last season, is on Wednesday.

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.

Wall leads Wizards

Sunday's Eastern Conference action got under way 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 Boston, Butler scored five points during an 8-0 run midway through the final period that put the Bulls in control on an emotional night at the Boston Garden.

Celtics point guard Isaiah Thomas played the day after his younger sister, Chyna, was killed in a car accident.

Thomas led the Celtics with 33 points, hitting a layup with seven seconds left to cut Chicago's lead to 104-102.

But Butler dribbled off a few seconds and sealed the victory with a two free throws with just three seconds on the clock.

Game two of the series is Tuesday at the Garden.

With a heavy heart

Isaiah Thomas played with a heavy heart Sunday, scoring 33 points, just one day after his younger sister was killed in a car crash.

Thomas took to the court on an emotional night at the Boston Garden despite the death of 22-year-old Chyna Thomas, whom he honoured by pencilling her name on his green sneakers and adding "R.I.P. Lil Sis."

There was a moment of silence after the grieving Thomas led his teammates onto the floor and just before the playing of the American national anthem. "This was difficult," said Celtics centre Al Horford. "I felt like our guys really dealt with it the right way. But Isaiah is the one who I feel dealt with it the best."

Thomas received a heart-warming standing ovation from the home crowd.

He led the Celtics with 33 points, hitting a layup with seven seconds left to cut Chicago's lead to 104-102 in the opening game of their first round playoff series. But Chicago's Jimmy Butler dribbled off a few seconds and sealed the victory with a two free throws with just three seconds on the clock. Butler finished with 30 points.

Police said Chyna Thomas died at the scene of the accident at around 5 a.m. Saturday in Federal Way, Washington, located 35 kilometres (22 miles) south of Seattle. Witnesses told authorities that her car drifted off the side of the road into a concrete barrier before slamming into a metal post head-on.

Isaiah Thomas was instrumental in Boston's emergence as the top seed in the NBA's Eastern Conference playoffs.

 

Results (series best of seven)

Eastern Conference at Washington

Washington Wizards 114 Atlanta Hawks 107

(Wizards lead series 1-0)

At Boston

Chicago Bulls 106 Boston Celtics 102

(Bulls lead series 1-0)

Western Conference at Oakland, California

Golden State Warriors 121 Portland Trail Blazers 109

(Warriors lead series 1-0)

At Houston, Texas

Houston Rockets 118 Oklahoma City Thunder 87

(Rockets lead series 1-0)