Warriors rally to beat Rockets after Kevin Durant injury

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Golden State was nearly finished blowing a 20-point lead. Stephen Curry was still slumping. Klay Thompson had gone quiet since a scorching start.

Then, Kevin Durant limped off the court with a calf injury.

End of the Warriors as we know them?

No, thanks to the Warriors as we previously knew them.

In a performance reminiscent of 2015 and 2016 before Durant joined them, Curry took over, Thompson came up big in support and Draymond Green threw his body all over the court as Golden State beat the Rockets 104-99 in Game 5 Wednesday.

The Warriors take a 3-2 series lead into Houston for Game 6 Friday. Teams with home-court advantage and a 3-2 lead in a best-of-seven series entering a road Game 6 have won Game 6 51% of the time and the series 91% of the time.

This has been an especially tight series with games decided by four, six, five, four and now five points. The first five games of a series have each been decided by six or fewer points only three times previously. The Grizzlies eliminated the Thunder in five close games in 2013. After five close games, the Cavaliers blew out the Pistons in Game 6 to clinch their 2007 series. In 1995, the Magic and Pacers played five close games then exchanged blowouts in Games 6 and 7, Orlando ultimately prevailing.

Will Golden State-Houston follow the trend with a blowout Game 6? Or will these teams keep it unprecedently close?

Durant’s injury could give the Rockets an edge. The Warriors are still determining whether he’ll even travel to Houston.

But Golden State bought itself margin for error with tonight’s win.

Nobody stepped up more than Curry. His scoring before and after Durant’s injury:

  • Before: 9 points on 4-of-14 shooting, including 1-for-8 on 3-pointers, in 30 minutes
  • After: 16 points on 5-of-9 shooting, including 2-for-3 on 3-pointers, in 14 minutes

His help was sporadic, but timely.

Green (eight points, 12 rebounds, 11 assists, game-high +12) fouled out, and he got a late technical foul for elbowing Chris Paul in the head while celebrating a charge drawn on Paul. But Green also buried a huge 3-pointer on the next possession:

As the Warriors tried to preserve a three-point lead with the shot clock off, Thompson (27 points on 5-of-10 3-point shooting) got trapped along the sideline and threw a pass up for grabs. The ball got batted around until Kevon Looney – who made numerous big contributions and could start for Durant – secured it. Looney passed to a cutting Thompson, who made a contested layup:

That was the dagger in an odd game.

James Harden (31 points and eight assists) scored early in the fourth quarter and again late, but he went more than 10 minutes of game time and nine minutes of playing time without making a shot (only one free throw in that span).

Paul (11 points on 3-of-14 shooting, including 0-for-6 on 3-pointers) was off.

The Rockets can play much better.

But the Warriors quickly rediscovered their pre-Durant identity, and that could propel them in what looks like a tossup Game 6.