OAKLAND, Calif. — For the first time in 40 years, the Golden State Warriors are the best in the West.
Stephen Curry had 26 points and five steals, Harrison Barnes scored 13 of his 24 points in the fourth quarter, and Golden State eliminated the Houston Rockets in five games with a 104-90 victory on Wednesday night at an electrifying Oracle Arena. Klay Thompson had 20 points before leaving with a right ear laceration. Andrew Bogut and Draymond Green added 14 and 13 rebounds, respectively.
The newly crowned Western Conference Champions will face LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA Finals. The Warriors will host Game 1 of the best-of-seven series next Thursday at “Roaracle”.
While it was a memorable night for Curry and company, it was a forgettable night for the Rockets and James Harden. The MVP runner-up scored just 14 points on 2-of-11 shooting and committed a playoff-record 13 turnovers. Dwight Howard led Houston with 18 points, 16 rebounds and four blocks. Jason Terry and Corey Brewer finished with 16 points apiece. Trevor Ariza added 15 points and two steals.
The Warriors won despite shooting 40.7 percent from the field, including 9-of-29 (.310) from 3-point range. Their suffocating defense held the Rockets to just 35.1 percent shooting, including 5-of-24 (.208) from beyond the arc. Golden State also turned 20 Houston turnovers into 31 points.
Houston led 22-17 after an ugly opening quarter. The Rockets shot 33.3 percent. The Warriors shot 23.1 percent. Both teams committed seven turnovers.
The Warriors opened the second quarter with a 13-2 run to turn the five-point deficit into a six-point lead. Thompson led the charge with nine points. He splashed three straight 3-pointers. The Warriors led by the same margin at halftime.
Thompson opened the second half with five straight points to push the Warriors’ lead to 11. But he was quickly forced to the bench a minute later when he picked up his fourth and fifth fouls in a span of 22 seconds. The Rockets took advantage and cut the deficit to one. Terry hit a 3-pointer and Ariza converted a 3-point play. The Warriors missed six straight shots and committed three turnovers.
The Warriors still led by two late in the third quarter when they went on a 7-0 run to regain some breathing room. Festus Ezeli started the run by making two free throws after he was intentionally fouled, Curry splashed a 3-pointer and Andre Iguodala ended the run with a breakaway dunk off Harden’s 11th turnover. Ezeli finished with a playoff career-high 12 points and nine rebounds.
Golden State ended any suspense early in the final quarter. The Warriors used a 11-2 run to push the lead to 15. Barnes provided the exclamation point when he drove past Howard for a soaring one-handed dunk, sending Oracle into a full celebration mode.
The week off between games will do the Warriors a lot of good. Thompson left the game with 9:31 left after taking a knee from Ariza to the head. The impact of the hit busted Thompson’s ear open and the wound needed three stitches to close. Although Thompson did not show concussion symptoms during the initial evaluation, the Warriors announced that he did experience some after the game. Thompson will continue to be evaluated by the team’s medical staff.
Later in the quarter, Iguodala was fighting through a screen when he took a Howard elbow to his left shoulder. Iguodala held his shoulder for a while, but stayed in the game. The referees called an offensive foul on Howard on the play and was not upgraded to a flagrant after review.
Curry is still recovering from the nasty fall he took in Game 4. The league’s MVP started the game by wearing a yellow sleeve before removing it early in the second half. Curry shot 4-of-13 with the elbow protection and 3-of-8 without.
The schedule for the NBA Finals is listed below. All games will be televised on ABC.
Game 1: Thu. June 4, Cleveland at Golden State, 6:00 p.m. PDT
Game 2: Sun. June 7, Cleveland at Golden State, 5:00 p.m. PDT
Game 3: Tue. June 9, Golden State at Cleveland, 6:00 p.m. PDT
Game 4: Thu. June 11, Golden State at Cleveland, 6:00 p.m. PDT
Game 5: Sun, June 14, Cleveland at Golden State, 5:00 p.m. PDT (if necessary)
Game 6: Tue, June 16, Golden State at Cleveland, 6:00 p.m. PDT (if necessary)
Game 7: Fri, June 19, Cleveland at Golden State, 6:00 p.m. PDT (if necessary)