Houston, Texas: With Kevin Durant in Oakland nursing a leg injury and Steph Curry stinking it up here in the first half, the Houston Rockets had the Golden State Warriors right where they wanted them.
Well, maybe not. Improbably, the Warriors beat Rockets 118-113 on Friday night at the Toyota Center and clinched the Western Conference semifinals 4-2.
Curry was scoreless in the first half but erupted after the break and finished with 33 points, including 23 in the fourth quarter, and was clutch during the frenetic finish. He shot 9-for-20 from the field overall and 4-of-11 from 3-point range but hit all 11 of his free throws attempts, including eight in the final 30 seconds to seal the win.
“A night like tonight doesn’t happen without belief in myself,” Curry said.
— NBA (@NBA) May 11, 2019
James Harden had a game-high 35 points for the Rockets, but once again his season ends without a championship ring — or, for that matter, even a berth to the NBA Finals.
The Rockets led 89-82 on Chris Paul’s jumper with 11 minutes left to play and a Game 7 looked ever more likely. But Houston unraveled in familiar fashion, getting eliminated from the playoffs by Golden State for the second year in a row and fourth time in five seasons.
“We’ve let a lot of opportunities slip away. … If you don’t take advantage of opportunities you end up on the losing side,” said Harden.
While the Warriors planned for the absence of Durant, who suffered a calf strain to his right leg Wednesday during Game 5, Curry’s ailing shot was almost shocking.
Curry was scoreless in the first half, missing all five of his shots — including two layups — and he committed three fouls. Foul trouble limited him to 12 minutes in the first half, but they still went into the break tied at 57.
“At halftime we’re tied and I had zero points, you’ve got to like that situation,” said Curry.
Klay Thompson paced the Warriors in the first half with 21 of his 27 points. And in the second half, Curry took over.
“When you’re missing one of the greatest players to ever play and the best scorer in the world, you can’t collectively make up for what he does,” Thompson said. “But you can step up in his absence and help out the point production.”
The Warriors, seeking their third straight NBA title, advance to the Western Conference finals and will play either the Denver Nuggets or the Portland Trail Blazers, with those teams set to play a Game 7 on Sunday.
The Warriors have reached the NBA Finals in the last four seasons, losing only in 2016 to LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Who would start in place of Durant was a mystery before the game, with Warriors coach Steve Kerr asked during a pregame media session about an hour and a half before tip-off.
“I’m not telling,” Kerr said. “I’m not required by league rules.”
The suspense ended when the Warriors took the floor. Durant’s fill-in was Andrew Bogut, who won the tip but did little else during seven minutes of play.
During the first half, Golden State led by as many as eight points. But the Rockets fought back and at halftime they were tied 57-57.
Rockets owner goes on epic rant after Warriors win
No one in Houston is happy right now, especially Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta.
After the Warriors eliminated the Rockets from the NBA playoffs Friday, Fertitta held court with reporters and went on an epic rant.
“Steph Curry scored 33 points in the second half. I mean, what do you say? The champions stood up and be champions,” Fertitta said. “We just need to learn from it. We have great athletes, we have great players. I’m a fortunate guy to have James Harden and Chris Paul on my team, and Eric Gordon, but these guys stepped up in the second half, and that’s why they are champions.
“Hopefully we just learn from it and be better, but you gotta give it to them tonight. They showed why they’re the champions, and we’re going to learn from it. We’re gonna to come back next year and we’re gonna kick their a– at some point. I can promise you that.”
The Warriors extended their NBA-record streak of winning at least one road game in their 21st consecutive series.
“They came to our home court and they kicked our a–, and that’s just the way it is,” Fertitta said. “They outscored us by 10 points in the fourth quarter. They won, they’re the champions, and we lost.”
A reporter asked Fertitta if losing at home made the loss more painful.
“Hell yes it’s more painful. This was not fun,” Fertitta said. “I guarantee you James and Chris and our team are very upset right now. They kicked our a– on our home court. They beat us by 10 points in the fourth quarter. It’s unacceptable. We just have to be better. And I know we’re going to rise to the occasion and our time is going to come.”
Harden lost in his only NBA Finals appearance while with the Oklahoma City Thunder, and Chris Paul never has been to the championship round, but Fertitta claimed the Rockets will win a title with their current core.
“I can promise you, we’re gonna win some championships with James Harden because we’re not going to sit here,” Fertitta said. “We’re going to battle every year. We’re going to have a strong offseason, and we’re gonna do whatever it takes to be a better team. We’re not gonna sit on our hands. I can promise you that.”
Then Feritta finished with quotes that are sure to raise eyebrows around the league.
“I’m a fighter. That’s my culture,” Fertitta said. “The longer I own this team, they’re gonna pick up more of my culture. We had ’em. We should have stepped on their throats the other night and cut their throats. It’s step on their throats, and let’s take it back to Houston and end it in six.”
Wow. Cut their throats? That’s a Texan for you.
Well, Tilman, sorry to break it to you, but your team doesn’t know how to step on anyone’s throat. Maybe you can find some players who know how to do that this summer. Good luck.