Los Angeles, CA — The two-time defending champion Golden State Warriors were one win away from their fifth straight trip to the Conference Finals, when they prepared to face the Houston Rockets on Friday night. Friday night’s game might have been one of the more difficult task for the defending champs. They looked to win a game without the services of the two-time Finals MVP Kevin Durant who sat out due to the calf injury he suffered in the third quarter of Game 5. The team knew Durant would be out at least the remainder of this series, and this team would have to figure out a way to win one game and move on without him.
The Rockets knew the Warriors were shorthanded, so maybe the challenge of taking out the two-time champs in the next two games was not as difficult. You don’t typically become back-to-back champs because of just one player, and the Rockets found that out first hand on Friday night, as they were sent home on their home floor 118-113.
The game was tied at the half at 57, but that wasn't the issue.
Stephen Curry, their second leading scorer, had not yet scored. He was 0-5 from the field and he was in foul trouble with three early fouls. He said his first half was "pretty terrible, and at halftime we're tied and I had zero points, you've got to like that situation," Curry said after the performance.
The second half was a completely different story for Curry. He scored 33 points (23 in 4th) in the second half. He made 60% of his field goal attempts (9-15) and was 4-9 from 3-pt. "A night like tonight doesn't happen without belief in myself," Curry said. Klay Thompson had a big game himself scoring 27 points and hit 7-13 from 3-pt. "When you're missing one of the greatest players to ever play and the best scorer in the world, you can't collectively make up for what he does," Thompson said. "But you can step up in his absence and help out the point production."
Photo By: NBC sports
"That was an absolute grind," head coach Steve Kerr said. "We're thrilled to be moving on, and excited to have this one in our review mirror."
Andre Iguodala stepped up his scoring with 17 points.
Photo By: Fox news
This one has to hurt for stars James Harden and Chris Paul, the two Rockets who have led this team for the past two seasons.
"We've let a lot of opportunities slip away ... if you don't take advantage of opportunities, you end up on the losing side," Harden said. He led all scorers with 35 points and was able to recover from the injury to his eyes during Game 2.
Paul, who was unable to get back to the Conference finals for the second straight year, had a double-double with 27 points and 11 rebounds. He also led Houston with six assists. PJ Tucker had 15 points, and Clint Capela chipped in a quiet double-double of 10 points and 10 rebounds (6 off).
"This one's going to leave a mark," head coach Mike D'Antoni said. "This is not something you just get over. This one hurts. We played our best and they played their best, and we didn't knock them out. It was like a heavyweight fight. We didn't land the blows to at least get back to Golden State."
Now the champs await the winner of the Denver/Portland series.