By Jerry Feitelberg
The Golden State Warriors, playing without two of their stars, DeMarcus Cousins and Kevin Durant, found a way the defeat the Houston Rockets 118-113 Friday night in Houston. Most of the pundits, excluding this writer, picked the Rockets to win Game 6 and force a deciding Game 7 on Mother’s day in Oakland. The “experts” felt that the Warriors could not win with Kevin Durant. Durant was averaging a smidge over 36 points a game and how were the Warriors going to pick up the slack. The Warriors bench had not produced much in the playoffs this year. Warriors’ head coach Steve Kerr knew that he could not let his starters play all 48 minutes. He needed the bench to come through and did they ever. The Warriors motto is “Strength in Numbers,” and the bench led by Kevon Looney, Shaun Livingstone, Quinn Cook, Jordan Bell, and Jonas Jerebko all contributed to the Warriors victory and they did it in a hostile environment.
The Rockets, for the past year, were hoping to avenge last year’s demise in the Western Conference Finals against the W’s. Their star point guard, Chris Paul, injured his hamstring and did not play in the last two games. Paul was healthy, and they felt they had the advantage as Durant was not able to play for Golden State. What the Rockets didn’t count on was the fact that the Warriors know how to win. They won a championship in 2015 without Kevin Durant. They almost repeated in 2016 and did not have Durant. The W’s won the last two championships with KD, and, hopefully, they will win their third in a row with Durant as a teammate. The Warriors knew they had to find a way to stop the Rockets offense. They had to play strong defense, rebound, make steals, block shots, and not turnover the ball. They did everything right except they were a bit sloppy as they turned the ball over 17 times.
The Warriors and Rockets played a very competitive first half. The Rockets won the first quarter by one-point to lead 28-27. The Warriors offense in the first quarter was driven by Klay Thompson, Kevon Looney, and Draymond Green. The Warriors won the second period by a point, and the game was tied at 57 at the of two-quarters of action. Steph Curry did not score a single point in the first half. He committed three fouls and spent a lot of time on the bench. Klay Thompson led the W’s with 21. Draymond Green, Andre Iguodala, and Kevon Looney each had 8. Shaun Livingston had 6. The Rockets’ attack was led by James Harden’s 19. Chris Paul added 11. Hot-shooting Eric Gordon was held to 4. The Warriors knocked down7 threes while Houston made 8. The Rockets shot 10 more free three than the Warriors to keep them in the game.
The Warriors were hoping to get Steph going in the third quarter. The Rockets planned to double team both Steph and Klay and force the other Warriors to make the shots. The lead changed hands several times in the period. The Rockets increased the lead to six 74-68, but the W’s met the challenge and tied it at 77. The Rockets led by one 83-82 when they went on a 4-0 run to finish the period leading 87-82.
It all came down to the last 12 minutes of play. The Rockets led by five and had the crowd roaring their support. Would it be possible for The W’s to catch the Rockets? Could they put enough points on the board to win? Would Steph Curry lead them to the win? All those questions were answered. The Warriors refused to fold. The Rockets could not put Golden State away. The W’s tied the game at 97 when Steph made a two-point bucket. The took the lead for good when Kevon Looney made a huge bucket. Steph followed with a three, and the Dubs led 102-97. The Rockets’ James Harden hit a three, and it was a two-point contest 102-100. Curry was a one-man wrecking crew at this point. Steph made a duce and a trey and the Warriors were up 110-104 with 36.1 seconds left to play. Kevon Looney blocked a shot, and the ball went Golden State. The Rockets fouled Steph, and he made both free throws. Harden countered with a three. The Rockets kept fouling Steph, and he kept making free throws. The Warriors held off Harden and Paul to win 118-113, and they again ended the Rockets’ season.
Game Notes and stats- The Warriors outscored the Rockets 36-26 in the fourth quarter to overcome the five-point deficit at the end of three. Steph Curry scored 16 points in the final five minutes of the game. He scored 23 points in the fourth quarter and 33 points in the second half.
The Warriors resume play Tuesday night at Oracle Arena when they face the winner of the Denver Nuggets- Portnad Trailblazers series.
Steph led the W’s with 33. He made four threes in 11 tries. Klay had 27, and he made 7 three. Draymond Green had 8 points, 10 boards, and 7 assists. Andre Iguodala played well on offense as well as defense. He had 17 points, and he made five threes. Kevon Looney had 15, Shaun Livingston 11. The rest of the bench added 8. The W’s shot 49.4% from the floor. The had 35 boards and 10 offensive rebounds.
James Harden led the Rockets with 35. Chris Paul 27, P.J.Tucker 15, Clint Capela 10 points and 10 boards, Eric Gordon 9. Austin Rivers also had 9. The key to the win was not letting Eric Gordon, and Austin Rivers knock down threes.
The Warriors again showed the world that they are champions. They refused to fold. They could have, and nobody would have criticized them as they were without two All-Stars. They made the shots when they had to. They played defense in the fourth quarter. They did what they had to do to win.