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Warriors blow past Pelicans in third, hang on to win, set up showdown with Rockets

Since somewhere around Thanksgiving, the Warriors and Rockets have been on a collision course. They have been the two best, two most talented teams in the Western Conference — in the NBA, really — and for months now basketball fans have been impatiently awaiting this Thanos vs. Avengers-level showdown.

After the Rockets won to reach the West Finals earlier on Tuesday night, there was just one little bit of business left: The Warriors needed to close out the Pelicans.

Which was not going to be easy — Anthony Davis went off for 34 points and 19 rebounds trying to will his team to another win. However, when the Warriors get on a roll and Stephen Curry is doing things like this, there’s nothing any human can do.

The Warriors turned a three-point game at the half into a blowout with a 25-4 run to start the second half, then held on as the Pelicans raged, raged against the dying of the light. In the end, the Warriors held on to win 113-104, taking the series 4-1.

The Warriors vs. Rockets long-awaited showdown starts next Monday night in Houston.

Tuesday night was a game where the Warriors’ stars carried them, especially through a sluggish first half: Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and Kevin Durant were getting their buckets (the trio scored 48 of the Warriors’ first 59 points), while the rest of the Warriors looked off. Rajon Rondo just kept losing Thompson in the first half, and once he got rolling it was trouble all night for the Pelicans.

Then in the third, the Warriors trio scored all of the points on that decisive 25-4 run.

Stephen Curry looked the best he has since his return, scoring 28 points on 16 shots, getting out in transition and hitting threes.

That said, again Curry didn’t look like his old self when it came to lateral movement — it showed when he would try to shake a defender off the dribble and not create the space he expected. The Warriors need the full Curry in the next round.

Thompson finished with 23 points and Durant added 24. Draymond Green had 19 points and 14 rebounds.

This season was a big step forward for the Pelicans, who refused to go quietly in this game when a lot of other teams would have just folded and started talking about hotels in Cancun. Jrue Holiday had another brilliant outing — a triple-double of 27 points, 11 assists and 10 rebu0nds. Guys scrapped, they defended aw well as they could, the team showed promise. The Pelicans were just overmatched.

New Orleans took a leap forward, this playoff run was something it can build upon. This summer the question hanging over them will be what to offer free agent to be DeMarcus Cousins, who is not going to get a max five-year contract after tearing his Achilles but still has value.

For the Warriors, their next worry is James Harden, Chris Paul, and the Rockets. Starting Monday.