The “Splash Brothers” are known for their lethal shooting ability and offensive skills, but in Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals, they made the biggest play of the game on defense. With seven seconds remaining and James Harden with the ball in his hands with a chance to win the game, Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson trapped Harden and forced a turnover as Harden couldn’t get a shot up.
The defensive stop allowed the +Golden State Warriors
to squeak by with a 99-98 victory over the +Houston Rockets
to take a two games to nothing lead as the series now shifts to Houston for Game 3 on Saturday night.
For the second consecutive game, Curry and Harden brought their A-games. Harden led all scorers with 38 points on 13-of-21 shooting, with 10 rebounds and one assist shy of a triple-double yet again. Meanwhile, Curry was spectacular in his own right with 33 points on 13-for-21 shooting also, including five threes and six assists.
It was another sluggish start as Golden State continued their alarming trend of early turnovers. The #Warriors
committed four turnovers, many of them of the careless nature, within the first four-plus minutes as the #Rockets
took an early 10-9 lead.
However, Golden State was able to bounce back as they continued their hot shooting at Oracle Arena. Curry picked up right where he left off with 15 points in the first quarter, including 4-of-6 from deep as Houston inexplicably left him wide open on multiple occasions.
Following Curry’s lead, the Warriors would shoot 64 percent from the field as Leandro Barbosa capped the quarter with a breakaway layup to give Golden State a 36-28 first quarter lead. The only reason the lead wasn’t bigger was the Warriors problem in taking care of the basketball. Golden State turned the ball over seven times which led directly to 11 Houston points.
Golden State came out and looked to punish the Rockets at the onset of the second. The Warriors used an 8-0 run to begin the second quarter, punctuated by an Andre Igoudala tomahawk jam over Dwight Howard that brought down the house. The dunk energized the entire arena and seemed to shock the Rockets who were all out of sorts.
The Warriors pushed and moved the basketball at will as Golden State simply dominated Houston with flawless offensive efficiency in building a 19-point lead. Golden State registered 21 assists on 23 made field goals in the first half as they shot 57.5 percent from the floor.
Despite the Warriors offensive exploits, the Rockets closed the half strong just as Golden State did in Game One. Houston ended the first half on 23-6 run to tie the game at 55. Harden took over down the stretch, pouring in 12 points in the second, punctuated by a step-back three over Thompson.
One player who looked completely different from Game One was Andrew Bogut, who was moving with much more effectiveness. After going scoreless in 16 minutes during the first game, Bogut deposited 10 points on 5-for-5 shooting with three assists, two rebounds and a highlight-reel block of Harden at the rim during the first half.
The two teams would trade runs in the third quarter as the intensity picked up. Houston continued their run to conclude the second quarter with a 10-4 run, highlighted by three three-point shots as the Rockets built a 65-59 lead. Golden State answered right back with a 12-2 run of their own to take a 71-67 lead as the two teams settled into an offensive flow.
Curry and Harden would trade body blows throughout the quarter, just as they did in the first game. Curry poured in 10 points in the third, while Harden answered with seven of his own as the Warriors took a 77-75 lead into the fourth. The turnovers continued to plague Golden State as they turned it over 14 times through three quarters which allowed Houston to hoist 12 more shots.
The stage was set for another epic fourth quarter and the two teams didn’t disappoint. Neither team was able to build any sort of momentum as Golden State clung to an 85-81 lead with 7:22 remaining. Both teams refused to give an inch as Curry and Harden continued their sharp shooting duel.
Curry would hit a step back jumper over Terrence Jones to give the Warriors an eight-point lead, but Harden would answer right back with a three-pointer of his own. Harden refused to let the Rockets go quietly as the Warriors couldn’t stop him in the pick-and-roll.
With 33 seconds remaining, Harden threw an alley-oop to Howard which brought Houston to within one, but they were unable to get that final bucket.
After much of the narrative following Game One centered on the small lineup of Golden State, both big men answered back with big games. Howard who was questionable coming into the game with a left knee sprain, poured in 19 points and 17 rebounds. Bogut matched Howard with 14 points on 7-of-9 shooting to go along with eight rebounds, five blocks and four assists.
It was another classic game between the top two teams and players in the West this season. Curry has refused to allow his team to lose, while Harden must be thinking what else he has to do in order to get Houston a win. That’s six straight wins for Golden State over the Rockets this season but they will need to take care of the ball better if they want to extend their streak to seven.
The series has exceeded the hype as Curry and Harden have brought out the best in one another, but thus far, the advantage goes to Curry.