Basketball News

Warriors finish off Rockets, advance to NBA Finals

OAKLAND – Breaking down the Golden State Warriors’ 104-90 win over the Houston Rockets on Wednesday that clinched the Western Conference finals by a 4-1 margin.

Golden State Warriors guard Klay Thompson (11)
Golden State Warriors guard Klay Thompson (11) shoots in front of Houston Rockets forward Trevor Ariza (1) during the third quarter in game five of the Western Conference Finals of the NBA Playoffs at Oracle Arena.
(Photo: Kyle Terada, USA TODAY Sports)

What happened: The Warriors reached the NBA Finals, something that hasn’t been said or written in four decades. That Golden State team was able to finish the job, with Rick Barry & Co. sweeping theWashington Bullets in just their third season in Oakland after moving from San Francisco.

The modern-day version got there by way of a slop-fest against the Houston Rockets that counted as a series-deciding victory nonetheless. They will now face the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Finals. The Warriors started to pull away in the third quarter, using a 7-0 run to lead 74-65, and keeping the reckless Rockets at bay from there.

Just one game after giving up 128 points to Houston, the Warriors’ defense got the job done in this one as the Rockets shot 35.1%. James Harden, such a force in Houston’s Game 4 win with his 45-point outing, had his worst game of the year at the worst possible time.

Chef Harden cooking sloppy joes: The poor shooting would have been bad enough, Harden hitting 2 of 10 shots in 44 minutes. Then there was the defense, with Harden letting Warriors shooting guard Klay Thompson get loose for an efficient 20-point night (8-of-14 shooting). But Chef Harden treated the ball as if he were grabbing a hot plate with no gloves, turning it over a remarkable 13 times and setting a league record for giveaways in a playoff game. The previous record holder was “Super” John Williamson (1979, 11).

Sloppy start: The first quarter, in some ways, felt like Game 7 of the 2010 NBA Finals between the Lakers and the Celtics. The Los Angeles folks who had been there to see something special, and who had assumed that home court meant a win was all but guaranteed, grew more and more frustrated when the unpredictability of the game kept getting in the way.

And championships in Laker Land, it’s fair to say, are far less unique than Finals appearance for this once-futile franchise.

The sloppiness of it all seemed to leave Warriors fans bewildered, with jumpers short-armed and decisions hastily made by the home team – one can assume – because of all that pressure packed into the building. The Rockets led 22-17 entering that second period, having forced the Warriors to miss 21 of 27 shots in all and seven of eight from three-point range.

After speaking so frequently about the one-turnover first half in Game 3 that played such a pivotal role in putting them up 3-0, they had six turnovers in that opening period. Lucky for them, Harden had five giveaways of his own, and the Rockets had seven in all. In hindsight, it was quite the missed opportunity on Houston’s part to pull away early.

What worked for Warriors: Their role players, and with impeccable timing, considering MVP Stephen Curry hit 7 of 21 shots for 26 points. Harrison Barnes turned in a 24-point outing that was badly needed because of Thompson’s early foul trouble.Andre Iguodala was a defending menace while playing a meaningful 30 minutes. And backup big man Festus Ezeli came up with a rare night of offensive production, hitting five of seven shots for 12 points.

What worked for Rockets Jason Terry (16 points) and grit until the end, and Dwight Howard (18 points and 16 rebounds). Other than that, not much at all.

What’s next: Game 1 of the Finals is June 4 back here at Warriors Central. And what a showdown it should be.

In terms of previews, we only truly have one example: On Feb. 26, the Cavs downed the Warriors 110-99. LeBron James clearly got the best of Curry that night. James had 42 points on 15-of-25 shooting, 11 rebounds and five assists, while Curry had 18 points on five-of-17 shooting (3 of 9 from three-point range) and six rebounds and three assists.

James didn’t play in the first Cavs-Warriors matchup on Jan. 9, when Golden State won 112-94 at Oracle Arena. At the time, he was nearing the end of his two-week hiatus to rest his aching back and knee. After he returned, the Cavs would go on to win 34 of their final 44 games.


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Warriors finish off Rockets, advance to NBA Finals

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