What a game. Usually that’s meant in a good way, but for tonight’s 104-90 win by Golden State to advance to its first NBA Finals since 1975, it’s because this game was flat out crazy. Consider:
–James Harden became the first player since Jason Kidd in 2000 with 13 turnovers, which was also a new playoff record, breaking a record that was set in 1979, the final season before the three-point line was instituted.
YO, Klay Thompson's ear is bleeding! pic.twitter.com/VPKpJYzQtj
— SportsNation (@SportsNation) May 28, 2015
Certainly not anywhere close to a banner game in terms of quality, it was still chock full of drama. Houston came out very sharp, led by peak Dwight Howard. They held a 20-12 advantage, and the first quarter finished at 22-17, with the latter number being the lowest scoring opening quarter for the Warriors all season.
That deficit quickly evaporated as Golden State went on a 10-0 run to start the second quarter. It appeared as if the Warriors would run Houston out of the building, but the nerves clearly got to them, as Thompson admitted after the game. With how sloppy both teams played, combined with the fast-paced offenses, at times this game looked more like air hockey than basketball.
Neither team was able to put a definitive imprint on the game, which left the door open for the Rockets in the third, especially after Thompson (who finally had gotten a rhythm on offense, scoring 15 in the first half) picked up his fourth foul and subsequently his fifth after Steve Kerr chose to trust him rather than take him out. Stephen Curry, possibly affected by wearing a sleeve due to the nasty fall he took in Game 4, could never quite find the stroke (7-21 FG, 3-11 from three, 9-12 FT for 26 points), so the Rockets were able to climb back into the game.
The back half of the third teetered back and forth as Houston kept threatening to reclaim the lead, but was never quite able to do it. As mentioned, Ezeli and Barnes, along with Iguodala, made impactful plays down the stretch, providing energy in transition and on the offensive glass, all while Houston was dependent on an out-of-sync Harden to carry the offense on a night where he needed more help. Nine points in two minutes from Barnes gave the Warriors breathing room, and they upheld a minimum of a nine-point edge throughout the back half of the final quarter.
It was anything but elegant, but in the words of a defeated Harden, “in the playoffs it doesn’t matter how you get it done, as long as you win.” This series clincher was a reminder of the depth Golden State wields, as they had multiple guys come off the bench and change the game. Houston may have had that if Patrick Beverley and Donatas Motiejunas were healthy, though we’ll never really know.
Now these Warriors have to pass the annual challenge put in front of every Western Conference champion since 2011: LeBron James. As good as he is, Curry likely won’t be able to topple LeBron by himself. Thankfully for the Warriors, he won’t have to.