Warriors Survive Late Rockets Surge, Earn 2-0 Lead in Western Conference Finals

By David Kenyon

Thursday at Oracle Arena, Houston Rockets shooting guard James Harden found everything he wanted—except the game-winning shot.

Harden torched the Golden State Warriors for 38 points, 10 rebounds, nine assists and three steals, but the Dubs squeaked out a 99-98 victory in Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals to take a 2-0 lead in the series.

Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson—the “Splash Brothers”—double-teamed Harden on the final sequence of the game, not allowing the Houston superstar to attempt a potential buzzer-beater.

Curry, the 2015 NBA MVP, certainly backed up his accolade. He netted 33 points on a 13-of-21 mark from the floor—including a 5-of-11 clip from three-point range—and dished six assists.

On the other hand, Thompson finished the night just 6-of-15 overall and 1-of-7 from deep, and the 2-guard struggled mightily on defense against Harden. However, Golden State coach Steve Kerr didn’t completely buy into that notion.

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Regardless, the Warriors nearly coughed up the game due to 24 points allowed off turnovers. Golden State also surrendered a 17-point advantage during the second quarter, but Curry hit a pair of critical shots down the stretch.

His step-back jumper over Terrence Jones that gave the Dubs an eight-point advantage with 1:40 remaining appeared to be the dagger:

Following Curry’s bucket, Houston ripped off an 8-1 run to close the contest. But, Draymond Green’s lone free throw proved to be the difference. Green added 12 points, eight boards and seven assists for Golden State.

Dwight Howard was a game-time decision due to a knee injury, but the Rockets center put together a tremendous performance. He tallied 19 points and 17 rebounds in 40 minutes of action.

Unfortunately for Houston, the offense was essentially a two-man show in Harden and Howard. Josh Smith and Trevor Ariza combined to shoot 8-of-25 from the field, hitting just one of their seven trifecta attempts. Terrence Jones chipped in 12 points, but the Rockets’ 30.4 percent three-point mark also doomed the squad.

Despite the near-collapse, Golden State improved to 54-0 when leading a game by at least 15 points, per ESPN Stats & Info.

News & Notes

Thompson, who connected on 43.9 percent of his three-point attempts during the regular season, is just 2-of-14 in the series. But he did throw down this massive slam:

Andrew Bogut tied a personal playoff-best with 14 points and set a career-high by swatting five shots. Bogut drilled 7-of-9 shots, grabbed eight rebounds and posted four assists, though he committed four turnovers—a couple of which were unnecessarily fancy passes.

In order to win the series, Houston must overcome unfavorable history.

The Rockets attempted a playoff-low 19 free throws and connected on a postseason-worst 13.

Game 3 is Saturday, May 23, at the Toyota Center in Houston. ESPN will televise the contest, which will tip off shortly after 9 p.m. ET.

Photo: USA Today Sports