Durant shines in return from 19-game absence, knee injury, in romp of Pelicans

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BOX SCORE

By JANIE McCAULEY

(Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

(Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) KEVIN DURANT‘s first touch after missing 19 games with a knee injury? Just a driving baseline reverse and emphatic one-handed slam, and KD triumphantly returned to finish with 16 points, 10 rebounds and six assists in helping the Golden State Warriors beat the undermanned New Orleans Pelicans 123-101 on Saturday night.

With two-time reigning MVP STEPHEN CURRY sidelined by a bruised left knee, Durant shined in 31 minutes and the balanced Warriors won their 14th straight game – the longest unbeaten run in the NBA this season. He hadn’t played since getting hurt Feb. 28 at Washington, then resumed full practice Friday.

KLAY THOMPSON scored 20 points, DRAYMOND GREEN had 13 points and eight rebounds, and the do-everything Warriors sure look poised for another deep playoff run.

Coach Steve Kerr joked about “three meaningless games” remaining after the NBA’s top team wrapped up the best record and No. 1 seed in the Western Conference during Wednesday’s win at Phoenix.

Still, the Warriors absolutely played to win.

Durant raised both hands to the sky and pointed when he took the court before tipoff. His shot wasn’t quite as consistent as usual – 6 for 15 and missing all four of his 3-point tries – as he eases his way back to top form after such a long layoff.

He had an assist to ZAZA PACHULIA on Golden State’s second possession and dished on consecutive third-quarter Warriors baskets, even bringing the ball up court on occasion in Curry’s absence and gave everybody a lift just by being back in the lineup.

SHAUN LIVINGSTON started for Curry and had 14 points on 7-for-10 shooting and six assists, ANDRE IGUODALA added 15 points, five rebounds and five assists, while IAN CLARK (17) and JAVALE MCGEE (16) also scored in double digits.

Kerr kept Green and Thompson below 30 minutes as planned.

JORDAN CRAWFORD scored 21 points off the bench and ALEXIS AJINCA added 17 as New Orleans had nine healthy bodies playing on a back-to-back following a loss at Denver on Friday.

Golden State’s Matt Barnes suffered a sprain to his right ankle and foot in the second quarter and didn’t return. X-rays were negative.

TIP-INS

Pelicans: New Orleans lost its seventh straight to the Warriors, 17th in 18 overall and ninth in a row at Oracle Arena. … The Pelicans shot 5 for 20 on 3s and were outrebounded 53-34.

Warriors: Golden State posted its 50th 30-assist game with 36, joining the 1984-85 Lakers as the only teams to do so in 50 games. … The winning streak is the third-longest in franchise history behind 28 in a row and 16 consecutive victories, all in the past three years. … Curry – expected to return Monday – and Durant were each averaging 25.3 points coming into the game. … Rapper Drake sat courtside next to Warriors GM Bob Myers, a few seats down from owner Joe Lacob and Hall of Famer Jerry West.

BEAT-UP NEW ORLEANS

The Pelicans were missing DeMarcus Cousins, ANTHONY DAVIS, OMER ASIK, E’TWAUN MOORE and QUINCY PONDEXTER.

As far as Davis’ sore left knee is concerned, coach Alvin Gentry said, “At this stage of the season we’re not going to risk anything.”

And the other ailments: Asik (illness), Cousins (right Achilles tendinitis), Moore (sprained left ankle), Pondexter (left knee).

UP NEXT

Pelicans: At Lakers on Tuesday in the third of four road games to end the season.

Warriors: Host Utah on Monday looking for an eighth straight home win vs. Jazz and eighth overall in the series.

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Associated Press

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