Western Conference semis: Warriors take 2-0 lead against Rockets
OAKLAND, California — Kevin Durant scored 29 points and established an early defensive tone against James Harden, leading the Golden State Warriors past the Houston Rockets 115-109 on Tuesday night (Wednesday morning, Philippine Time) for a 2-0 lead in their Western Conference semifinal.
Harden got hit in both eyes early but was able to return and finished with 29 points and seven rebounds on a night boos regularly greeted both him and Chris Paul at deafening Oracle Arena, where the Rockets complained after a 104-100 Game 1 defeat that the officials missed foul calls when the Warriors closed out on Houston’s 3-point shooters.
Paul celebrated and cheered when Harden drew a foul on Durant in the closing seconds of the third on a very such play. Harden converted three free throws to pull Houston within 82-75 going into the final 12 minutes.
Read more: NBA update: Bucks recover to tie series at 1-1
Harden scored seven straight Houston points during one stretch midway through the fourth, including a 3 at 7:25 that go the Rockets within 92-89. Stephen Curry connected for a key 3 at the 6:31 mark on the way to 20 points.
Klay Thompson scored 21 points and hit consecutive 3-pointers late in the third. Draymond Green had 15 points, 12 rebounds — three on the offensive end over two possessions in the opening quarter — and seven assists.
Game 3 is Saturday in Houston.
Durant took an early charge from Harden and blocked one of his shots as Houston committed five quick turnovers that led to 10 points. Andre Iguodala, who also handled much of the load defending Harden, added 16 points, five rebounds and four assists.
Curry dislocated his left middle finger in the first quarter but X-rays were negative and he returned with it taped.
Curry missed his first four 3-point tries before hitting late in the first and played in foul trouble once more. He picked up his fourth with 6:43 in the third on a reach in, something he’s been working to stop doing.
Harden injured his eyes with 6:39 left in the first, grabbing at his face after he and Green fought for a loose rebound and Green’s left hand got Harden in the face.
When Harden went to the locker room with 6:27 left and a towel over his left eye for a cut, Green patted him on the back and said something to acknowledge the tough play. Harden returned at the 7:09 mark of the second.
Both teams were more composed when it came to mouthing off at the referees.
Harden already had a history with official Scott Foster, who worked Tuesday’s game. Harden was fined $25,000 for calling Foster “rude and arrogant” following a 121-111 loss at the Lakers on Feb. 21 in which Harden fouled out — and Foster hadn’t worked the Rockets since until Tuesday.
The schedule was made before officiating became such an emphasis in the series opener.
“He’s one of the best in the game and I’d be surprised if he wouldn’t be somewhere,” Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni said beforehand. “The crew is some of the best in the league.”
In Game 1, Paul was automatically ejected with 4.4 seconds left following a second technical and fined $35,000 by the NBA on Monday for making contact with official Josh Tiven.
D’Antoni emphasized the scrutiny of officials “shouldn’t continue.”
Durant’s run of five straight performances scoring at least 30 points was snapped.
With 201 points over his previous five games, he became the fourth player in NBA history to score 200 or more in such a span — joining LeBron James, Allen Iverson and Michael Jordan. /bmjo
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