James Harden might have been hot, but Stephen Curry was fire.
The only thing that outshined Curry’s performance was his daughter Riley’s at the post-game press conference.
Curry rattled off three double-digit scoring quarters — to Harden’s two — and when he wasn’t hitting off-balance threes and falling to the floor, he was distributing, grabbing rebounds and stealing the ball.
The MVP scored a game-high 34 points in the Warriors 110-106 victory over the Rockets to take a 1-0 lead in the Western Conference Finals best-of-seven series.
Curry said his game plan is always to be aggressive and allow the game to dictate what that will mean:
“You never know what that’s going to mean, whether its going to be a playmaker or taking and making shots. You’ve just got to come out and be aggressive.”
The Rockets’ 16-point early lead and 9-0 run to cut the lead to two points in the final seconds of the game don’t matter. Harden’s miraculous shots over outstretched hands and his near triple-double (28 points, 11 rebounds, 9 assists) don’t count. There are no moral victories in the postseason.
Instead, the Warriors are one step closer to the NBA Finals led by Curry and a cast of rotating stars.
Warriors head coach Steve Kerr said that type of roster is exactly what is needed to win a championship:
“That’s what it takes in the playoffs. You’ve got to get a few guys just to step in a make a big play here or there, and you get enough of those guys to do it and you’ve got a shot to win.”
Tuesday it was Shaun Livingston and Harrison Barnes who stepped into the spotlight helping to push the Warriors to their ninth playoff victory of 2015.
Down 16 points in the second quarter, Kerr went with a small lineup — Livingston, Barnes, Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green.
In less than six minutes, the small lineup completely erased the deficit, caused six turnovers and Livingston scored 12 points. Curry then capped the run by hitting a buzzer-beating step-back jumper for a 58-55 lead at the half.
The Warriors maintained a lead through the third quarter, and when Houston evened the game with just over five minutes left to play, the Warriors broke away again with Barnes and Curry rattling off 11 straight points with dunks, put-backs and classic Curry threes.
The Rockets went on a late run of their own, as nine consecutive points in the final minutes cut the Warriors lead to two. But the league MVP hit both of his shots at the charity stripe with just seconds left and whatever Houston had to give wasn’t enough.
Curry said fighting back from being down obviously isn’t how he wants to play, but he guaranteed one thing, the Warriors will continue to fight:
“That’s the one thing you can count on with this team, we’re going to fight and get back in the games.”
The Warriors hold a 1-0 series lead against the Rockets and will play Game 2 at home Thursday before heading to Houston for Games 3 and 4 Saturday and Monday.
Golden State played in its first Western Conference Finals game since a loss to Phoenix in Game 7 on May 16, 1976, ending a 39-year Conference Finals drought. … Golden State and Houston met tonight for the first time ever in the postseason. … Stephen Curry tallied his league-leading sixth 30-point game of the 2015 Playoffs and his 11th career postseason 30-point game. … Shaun Livingston scored a playoff career-high 18 points, the most by a Warriors reserve this postseason. … James Harden finished with a team-high 28 points to go with a playoff-career-high 11 rebounds and nine assists, missing what would have been his second career postseason triple-double by one assist.
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