Warriors hold off Rockets despite Durant's injury
Draymond Green and Klay Thompson buried 3-pointers on consecutive possessions late in the game Wednesday night (US time), allowing the Golden State Warriors to survive the loss of Kevin Durant and hold off the Houston Rockets 104-99 in Game 5 of the Western Conference semifinals in Oakland, Calif.
Top-seeded Golden State’s third narrow win of the best-of-seven series puts the defending champions one victory away from a fifth straight trip to the West finals.
“I apologize to my mom, who is probably watching, but our guys are (bleeping) giants,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “That was an unbelievable victory.”
The Warriors will get their first opportunity to earn advancement in Game 6 of the series on Friday night in Houston. Game 7, if necessary, would be played Sunday in Oakland.
After the Rockets rallied from 20 down to take the lead late in the third quarter, and with Durant in the locker room for the final 14 minutes following a calf injury, the Warriors outfinished their fourth-seeded foe.
“We had to dig deep tonight,” Warriors star Stephen Curry said in his postgame interview with TNT. “Obviously, I don’t know what’s going on with my brother (Durant), but the way that the team responded down the stretch was what we’re capable of, and we’ll carry that momentum into Friday.
“It was just next man up. I know everybody says that, but it’s the perspective we have to have. (Durant has) done a lot for us. We’ve got have his back, so that’s what tonight was about. Again, everybody stepped up and played hard.”
A 3-pointer by Eric Gordon had the Rockets down just 89-88 with 4:49 to play, and a free throw by James Harden kept Houston within 91-89 with 3:39 to go.
But Green then buried his 3-pointer, and after a Houston turnover, Thompson bombed in his trey to push the Golden State lead to 97-89 with 2:34 to go.
Houston got as close as three one more time, on a layup by Harden with 18.6 seconds left, before Thompson, after nearly throwing the ball away, dropped in an interior hoop for the clinching basket with 4.1 seconds left.
“If Kevin is out, then what you saw in the fourth quarter is what you are going to have to see going forward,” Kerr said. “We’re going to have to find a way.”
Durant’s injury occurred innocently enough after he hit a jumper from the right side with 2:05 left in the third quarter.
He took a step toward the defensive end of the court before grimacing in pain and looking down at his lower right leg, leading to concerns he might have ruptured his Achilles.
However, the injury was later announced by the Warriors to be a strained right calf although a final diagnosis will be determined after an MRI exam on Thursday.
“I was assured that it’s a calf strain and not the Achilles,” Kerr said postgame.
Thompson finished with 27 points, Curry 25 and Durant 22 for the Warriors, who continued a run of home wins by the teams in the series.
Andre Iguodala added 11 points, while Green had a brilliant all-around game before fouling out, complementing eight points with 12 rebounds and 11 assists.
Harden was the game’s leading scorer with 31 points for the Rockets, who were outshot by the Warriors from the field 45.9 per cent to 41.8 per cent and outscored on 3-pointers 39-36.
Gordon chipped in with 19 points for Houston, while P.J. Tucker had 13 to go with 10 rebounds.
Chris Paul and Iman Shumpert had 11 points apiece, and Houston’s Clint Capela was the game’s leading rebounder with 14 to go with six points.
The Warriors used a 17-0 burst late in the first half to go up 57-37, only to see the entire advantage disappear before the end of the third period when Harden’s floater gave Houston a 71-70 lead.
“We just weren’t real sharp early,” Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni said. “We went down 20, then it looked like we gathered it and righted ourselves, but a lot of times when you do that, you exhale a little bit, and (the Warriors are good). Can’t do it.”
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