Kerr's ‘best five guys' set tone early in Game 4, will start again in Game 5

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NEW ORLEANS -- The guessing games are over, and will be for at least as long as this Warriors-Pelicans series will last, and the conclusion likely will come on Tuesday.

In laying a 118-92 beating on New Orleans in Game 4 of the Western Conference semifinals Sunday at Smoothie King Center, the Warriors put an emphatic end to any mystery about their starting lineups for the foreseeable future.

Which means Stephen Curry at point guard, Klay Thompson at shooting guard, Andre Iguodala at small forward, Kevin Durant at power forward and Draymond Green, listed at 6-foot-7, at center.

“I’ll start these guys the next game, too,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said.

“You’re on the road, you’re threatened, you put your best five guys out there,” he added.

The result was the Warriors taking a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven series. They can close it out in Game 5 Tuesday night at Oracle Arena.

This group -- which had never formed the starting lineup -- is precisely what Green had spent two days requesting, and he was not stunned that Kerr unleashed it.

“I kind of figured before Steve said it that it would happen,” Green said afterward. “I wasn’t surprised. I think it really set the tone for this game. We were flying around on the defensive end to start the game and pushing the tempo on the offensive end.”

Those five players, with various collective nicknames -- Death Lineup, Hamptons 5, etc. -- made an early statement, particularly on defense, and stayed on it throughout. From the moment the ball was tipped off, they buzzed about the court, disrupting, dislodging, blocking and swiping the Pelicans into submission.

The Warriors opened up leads of 17-4 and 27-10, forcing the Pelicans to call a second timeout with 4:06 left in the first quarter.

“It just got the energy right to start the game,” Curry said. “We took advantage of it and got the momentum on our side. We were able to set the right tone to bounce back after that terrible Game 3.”

In roughly 18 minutes together, the starting five posted a preposterously stingy 66.5 defensive rating and a whopping 130.1 offensive rating.

Moreover, they generated the momentum that allowed the Warriors to finish with an 83.5 defensive rating for the game as a whole.

“Yeah, I mean just the experience, that guys have been there before,” Durant explained. “Just an IQ for the game. You know you got most of the guys that can penetrate and make plays. It’s good for scorers like Klay, Steph and myself. You know Andre and Draymond do all the utilities stuff like driving to the rim, getting stops, getting rebounds, and you know they were knocking down shots when they got the opportunity to shoot ‘em.

“We played off each other well. We’re going to need it even more at home for Game 5.”

Durant poured in a game-high 38 points, on 15-of-27 shooting from the field, and also grabbed nine rebounds. Curry scored 23 points and Thompson had 13, along with seven rebounds.

Green totaled only 6 points, but added nine rebounds, nine assists, four steals and two blocked shots.

Every member of the starting lineup posted an impressive plus-minus number, from Curry’s plus-21 to Green’s plus-28.

“Anytime we’ve been in any danger over the years, we’ve sort of gone to this lineup,” Kerr said. “Whether it’s as the starting group or extra minutes, and obviously the lineup worked or whatever.

“But it’s not about the lineup. It’s really not. It’s about how hard guys play and how focused they are. The effort on both ends tonight was night and day from Game 3, and I thought our guys were just dialed in.”

They’ll be back on Tuesday night, signaling an end to games in which Nick Young or JaVale McGee are in the starting lineup, surely for the remainder of this series and perhaps, presuming the Warriors advance, into the next series.

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