Warriors blast Rockets, advance to Semifinals

Ninety seconds in, Shaun Livingston set a screen, creating a wide-open three-pointer for Draymond Green.

Houston called time, essentially calling it there, and the Warriors hammered home the 114-81 win 46 minutes later — sending the Warriors to the second round of the NBA playoffs.

Klay Thompson sank 7-of-11 from beyond the arc,  pacing the team with 27 points, three boards and one assist.

This story has been updated with quotes and post-game material from the Warriors locker room at Oracle Arena.

James Harden led the Rockets with 35 points, leading the red and white one-man show.

The Warriors played without Stephen Curry, who is out for a minimum of two weeks with an MCL sprain, though the way the ball moved from player to player created the same spacing the team is used to.

Golden State scored 37 points during the first quarter, nearly double Houston’s 20, Harden accounting every made field goal, with the rest of Houston shooting 0-for-15.

Thompson scored 11 points, Livingston added 10, and Green scored six on 2-for-3 from distance.

The telling first quarter included five Rockets turnovers, six personal fouls committed by Houston, and an overall lack of teamwork. Which was opposite Golden State.

Golden State held an 89-59 lead at the third-quarter buzzer, and the end of the bench played out the final 12 minutes.

An hour later, Green was chatting with Warriors majority owner Joe Lacob, shooting the breeze and enjoying a series victory. Kerr was shaking hands with players’ families, and Curry was relaxed against a wall, his right shoulder balancing his weight like a GQ model during the summer.

The night had the feeling of a congratulatory dinner by 11 p.m. And in many ways it was, but mixed with a high school feeling — there’s more to come, the journey is incomplete.

The Warriors will face either Portland or the Los Angeles Clippers in the Western Conference Semifinals. Clippers star Chris Paul is out indefinitely with a fractured hand, and his counterpart Blake Griffin will miss the remainder of the postseason with a quadriceps injury.

Los Angeles seems to be the easier matchup, and Portland is playing at the highest level they have in a very long time.

The Blazers beat the Clippers 108-98 Wednesday night, and hold a 3-2 lead in a race to four wins.

With at least one more game to go before a schedule can be announced, the Warriors rest a little while they prepare to face either team.

For Curry, that means an extra two or three days to receive treatment on his injured knee. It also means that the bigs — Andrew Bogut, Festus Ezeli and Anderson Varejao — can rest their bodies as well.

Even without Curry, though, Golden State outscored Houston by 60 points for the final six quarters of the series.

Rockets head coach J.B. Bickerstaff called the Warriors the greatest team of all time following the final whistle, a polarity from Houston guard Jason Terry’s comments earlier that the Rockets would win, guaranteed.

What Bickerstaff also said, while in reference to what his own team needs during the offseason, summed up the Warriors perfectly:

“When you watch teams that win, there is an enthusiasm, there is a togetherness, there is a bond there, where the winning isn’t the only thing that matters. I think that’s where you have to start. You start with that foundation, and build from there.”

The Warriors’ foundation is clear. Curry is the propellant for a team that was once widely known as a cellar-dweller and now is unbeatable 95 percent of the time.

Though injured and unable to contribute on the court, the star guard didn’t let up. He picked up third-stringer Ian Clark, a free agent who was a longshot to make the team in August.

Curry cheered his group on, so much so, that his teammates needed to remind him that his knee is in rough shape, and there’s nothing good that can come from aggravating the injury.

Green, a joist that holds up the foundation and maintains an unmatched level of intensity, helped carry the added weight of a team beleaguered by their own success and fighting like hell to make history during the regular season.

Of course Thompson is a guy who the Dubs can count on when Curry is out. With the mentality of a hunting panther — an animal who routinely catches prey larger than itself — Thompson showed how tenacious his appetite can get with Curry on the sidelines.

Said Kerr:

“Klay had one of those games where you could sense it coming. He makes one and you could kind of see it in his eyes. He had it rolling.”

The depth of the Warriors, beyond the nationally-known names and faces, has been put on full display. Kerr noted Livingston’s knee injury — one of the ghastly and most brutal in all of sport — that displaced several years of certain production and eventually brought him to the Warriors.

Kerr opined that he was going to be “a multiple-time All-Star,” adding:

“There’s something about him. Maybe it’s the experience he went through with the injury, or maybe it’s just who he was already. Just an incredibly mature person, great teammate, and very, very smart basketball player.”

That’s the team that is currently without Curry but leaving no trace of possible defeat. Their unstoppable ethos was on full display Wednesday night, a manifestation of what the Warriors’ name stands for.

Along with the fatal bite that the Dubs roster induces, they carry a next-level type of confidence into the Western Conference Semi-Finals, regardless of who they play.

Notes

Head coach Steve Kerr was presented with his coach of the year trophy just before tip-off, accompanied by general manager Bob Meyers and assistant coach Luke Walton, who manned the helm over the first half, due to lingering symptoms from multiple back surgeries.Though Walton was the interim head coach, he was not credited with any wins. Walton has quickly became an intriguing candidate to move onto a head coaching job somewhere, but it’s unclear whether he will move on.


Jason Leskiw is SFBay’s Golden State Warriors beat writer. Follow @SFBay and @LeskiwSFBay on Twitter and at SFBay.ca for full coverage of Warriors basketball.