Barely 24 hours after Draymond Green and Andrew Bogut earned NBA All-Defense honors, the Warriors clamped down on the Rockets Thursday night to come away with a 99-98 victory and a 2-0 lead in the Western Conference Finals.
Bogut came out playing like he was on the All-NBA First Team, rather than a defensive second-team choice. In the first eight minutes, Bogut racked up multiple rebounds, assists, blocks and even took a charge to go along with six points of his own.
With just over two minutes left, Bogut notched his 14th point on a monstrous dunk to give the Warriors an eight-point lead which would be just enough to outlast the Rockets.
Houston used every weapon in its arsenal to chip away at the Warriors’ lead, causing an eight-second backcourt violation on the Warriors and coming within one point with less than a minute to play.
“Our team fought back. They got no quit in them. We forced an eight-second violations, we just kept grinding away and we had the ball with our best guy after a hell of a defensive effort by Dwight (Howard).”
It was defense that prevailed in the final seconds when Harrison Barnes missed a reverse lay-in over Howard and Houston charged down the court for the final possession of the game.
With less than 10 seconds left, Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson trapped Harden, forcing him to fumble the ball with no chance at a final shot Harden was left on the ground staring at the floor while confetti fell around him.
Curry said the only thing on his mind was to not let Harden be the hero and in the future, don’t let things get so dramatic:
“At that point, it’s just don’t let him get a shot off and try to be the hero and we were able to get it done … Key for us going into next game is to protect our lead down the stretch. We’ve build up seven, eight-point lead in the last two games and made it a little too drama-filled for us
Curry opened the game with 15 points on four 3-pointers and finished with 33 points, but seven first-quarter Golden State miscues made it difficult for the Warriors to separate themselves from the Rockets, who scored on every turnover.
The Warriors clamped down, finishing the opening frame and opening the second quarter on a 17-2 run — with Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson on the bench for most of it — taking a 49-32 lead with 7:43 left in the half.
Warriors Head Coach Steve Kerr said he would like to see his starters play with more patience than the bench played with Thursday:
“We righted the ship there late first quarter, early second, and we really had a nice flow going. It was really fun to see that second group come in and play that way we needed to play and just move the ball and make the simple play.”
James Harden wouldn’t let the Warriors get away easy, and knocked down contested shot after contested shot to finish with a game-high 38 points and closing the gap to a tie at the half, 55-55.
Trevor Ariza hit a three to give Houston its largest lead of the game at 65-59, but the Warriors stayed within striking distance before pulling ahead in the fourth quarter.
Defense in the final frame gave the Warriors the edge with contributions coming from across the roster. Two steals from Harrison Barnes led to buckets for Shaun Livingston and Curry, Bogut blocks, Bogut dunks, a block from Klay Thompson and of course, more Curry.
An 8-1 flurry from the Rockets threatened the Warriors who led 99-98 with 33 seconds left to play, but the team with two All-Defense players emerged victorious.
The Warriors will head to Houston with a 2-0 lead to play Games 3 and 4 on Saturday and Monday respectively. If a Game 5 is necessary the Warriors will be back home Wednesday.
Golden State is 54-0 this season when holding a lead of at least 15 points at any time in a game. … The Warriors recorded 17 turnovers, with the Rockets scoring 24 points off those miscues, a postseason-high for a Golden State opponent. … Stephen Curry finished with his league-best seventh 30-point game of the 2015 Playoffs, Curry has hit at least five three-pointers for four-straight games becoming the first player in NBA history to hit at least five threes in four-straight playoff games (per Elias Sports). … Andrew Bogut blocked a playoff career-high five shots and scored a playoff career-high tying 14 points. … James Harden finished with a game-high 38 points along with 10 rebounds and nine boards. It is the second-straight game that Harden missed a triple-double by one assist.