Stephen Curry drops 40, Warriors rout Rockets by 35 to take 3-0 series lead


For two games on the road, the Rockets battled and found little edges that kept games close. James Harden was forced into a lot of midrange shots and tough step-backs, but he was draining them. Dwight Howard was playing through a painful knee but he was putting up double-doubles. Role players stepped up beyond what could be expected from them consistently. The defense struggled with communication at times but looked fantastic at others.

Still, it felt like there would be one game in this series where all those edges wouldn’t go their way, where the Warriors would make the plays and get the bounces.

Plus, we had yet to see the best of Stephen Curry in this series — not just the ridiculous shooter, but the MVP who made a good team great.

It all happened Saturday night.

Golden State raced out to a double-digit lead in the first quarter, got 40 points on just 19 shots from Stephen Curry, and the Warriors routed the Rockets, 115-80.

Golden State now has a commanding 3-0 series lead. I won’t get into how no team has ever come back from 3-0 down in an NBA playoff series, I’ll just say Game 4 is Monday night in Houston.

“The halftime box score was really telling…” said Warriors coach Steve Kerr, who noted that his team was up 25 despite shooting just 45 percent and hitting 4-of-15 from three, but they had just one turnover. “If we defend like crazy and don’t turn it over, and when we do that we’re tough to beat.”

That pretty much was Kerr’s dream half.

It was about the paint — Andrew Bogut had 10 points on 4-of-4 shooting in the first quarter, and Golden State had 14 points in the paint in the first quarter, 32 in the half. It wasn’t just post ups, it was a matter of guys working hard off the ball and working for rebounds — Golden State grabbed 38 percent of its missed shots as offensive rebounds in the first half.

Maybe the most emblematic play of the first half: Stephen Curry snuck baseline and got inside rebounding position on Dwight Howard, got the offensive board, and was fouled going back up.

“For us, we have to score in the paint, we have to get offensive rebounds,” Rockets’ coach Kevin McHale said. “They beat us up in those two areas.”

The other side of this was Houston just could not hit shots — the Rockets shot 29.3 percent in the first half and were 2-of-13 from three.

James Harden was 1-of-8 shooting in the first half, struggling with different looks and a variety of double teams. Andre Iguodala and Harrison Barnes got time on him, not just Klay Thompson. Golden State just started putting a second guy between Harden and the rim, and for Harden the midrange shots he made look effortless for a couple games would not go down.

Golden State was up by 25 — 62-37 — at the half. The Game felt over. It was

The Rockets came out early in the second half and made a run, got the lead down to 18 and the crowd into the game.

Then the Warriors came back and Curry shut them up — and would not give the fans a dap.

Synergy Sports tweeted out that Curry has made 91% of the 3-pointers he’s attempted from the left corner this postseason.

If you’re looking for a bright spot for the Rockets, Dwight Howard looked spry and energetic, with 16 points on 6-of-10 shooting. He moved a lot better and played with some passion.

But this is a rough night in Houston — James Harden had 16 points on 3-of-16 shooting.

Houston has played well and valiantly this postseason, but the Warriors are simply better.

Quote of the Day: Andrew Bogut on Stephen Curry-James Harden matchup


Andrew Bogut on the Stephen Curry-James Harden matchup:

Sometimes, I want to crack open a beer and get a courtside seat, because these two guys are the two best basketball players in the world.

Now I just feel bad Bogut can’t enjoy the duel like the rest of us. But he can at least watch these highlights:


For two games James Harden has been brilliant, but that’s not what anybody is talking about


Everyone is talking about James Harden.

Flip on a sports television or radio and here is the James Harden they are talking about:

• With the game on the line couldn’t get the last shot off.

• That he didn’t realize he was passing to Dwight Howard at the top of the arc or he would have not made that dish.

• Then in frustration he tore down a curtain.

That’s all true.

But here’s the other thing people should be talking about:

• James Harden has been nothing short of brilliant for two games.

That last point will get lost in the noise.

Harden put up 38 points, grabbed 10 rebounds and had nine assists Thursday, that coming off a 28-11-9 Game 1. As it has been all season, he has gotten inconsistent help from his Rocket teammates, in part due to injury, and yet for two games he has just put his head down, lifted his team up and carried them farther than anyone expected.

The last two games, on the road, he carried them within a bucket of wins — in Houston’s late 8-1 run he had six points and an alley-oop to Howard. Harden has had two wildly entertaining duels with Stephen Curry.

“Sometimes I want to crack open a beer and get a courtside seat,” is how Andrew Bogut described the top two MVP vote getters.

Harden entered these playoffs with critics and doubters. They questioned his ability to score against playoff defenses. They questioned his leadership.

Even down 2-0 to the Warriors, Harden has answered all those questions.

Some of those critics just didn’t like watching his style of play, using his physicality and putting the pressure on both defenses and officials. But the James Harden Thursday night was not just hunting for fouls, he was making brilliant plays with finesse — step back jumpers that nobody could stop, or lobs to Howard when defenders rotated over to stop him. He made smart decisions on when to drive, when to pass and when the best call was just him to go up with the shot. The Warriors have done a good job of forcing Harden to take midrange jumpers more this series — Houston tries to avoid that least-efficient shot — but he has hit 69.2 percent of those attempts through two games. Harden’s game is about finding the little edge, the little crack in the defense, then going right at it hard and exploiting it. It’s crafty and physical.

source: Getty ImagesHis game may lack the flair of Curry’s, but it doesn’t lack for skill.

Or effectiveness.

But that’s not what everyone is talking about. Rather it is the last play, where Harden got the rebound off a Harrison Barnes missed layup with 8.5 seconds left and — with the blessing of his coach — pushed the ball up and tried to create a game winner in transition.

“I got the ball off the glass and I’m thinking ‘try to get an easy one,’” Harden said postgame. “They did a good job of having two guys on me so I couldn’t attack. When I looked up I saw a red jersey, it was Dwight (Howard) so I tried to throw it back to him. So I’m thinking with five seconds on the clock I tried to get the ball back but there still two guys right there. I watched the film, it was just a tough play.”

“I will take our best player coming downhill in a broken court any day of the week to win the game, That’s where James feasts,” said Rockets’ Rockets’ coach Kevin McHale said of deciding not to call a time out, adding that there were a couple Warriors out of position to get back and he liked the idea of Harden attacking a broken play.”

Statistically, that choice probably works more often than not, but trying it against the best defensive team in the NBA this past season is going to lessen those odds. It didn’t work out for Harden this time.

But that’s not all we should be talking about.

Warriors survive James Harden in Game 2, take 2-0 lead in Western Conference finals


James Harden lost the ball, the game and his cool.

And the Warriors gained a 2-0 lead in the Western Conference Finals.

The Rockets erased a 17-point deficit in the first half and ended the game on a 6-0 run and with possession, but Golden State escaped Game 2 with a 99-98 win.

Harden (38 points, 10 rebounds, nine assists and three steals) seemingly did everything for Houston, including scoring 10 of his team’s final 12 points and assisting the other basket. After the Rockets forced a miss with seven seconds left, Harden grabbed the defensive rebound and pushed the ball up court. But Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson trapped Harden and caused him to lose control of the ball:

Afterward, Harden took out his anger on some curtains:

Credit the Warriors for not falling so easily, even as Harden did so much to topple them.

Stephen Curry (33 points and six assists) will get credit for besting Harden again, just as he did in MVP voting. Truth be told, Harden outplayed Curry on Thursday and it wasn’t close.

The Warriors are just the more complete team – especially when they stay out of their own way.

Golden State – notably Curry (six turnovers) and Draymond Green (four turnovers) – attempted too many risky passes and allowed the Rockets to get steals and out in transition.

Dwight Howard (19 points and 17 rebounds) played excellently, especially considering he’s battling a knee injury. But Andrew Bogut (14 points, eight rebounds, four assists and five blocks) more than held his own in the center matchup.

Aside from its two stars, Houston shot just 18-for-52 from the field, including 4-for-17 on 3-pointers, and generated only two free throws.

Golden State is too good to beat like that – as much as Harden tried to prove otherwise.

Stephen Curry, LeBron James unanimous choices, lead All-NBA First Team


This is bigger than the All-Star Game for a lot of players. Because it’s more exclusive.

Only six guards, six forwards and three centers get to make the All-NBA team, it is the cream that has risen to the top of the NBA.

No shock, LeBron James and freshly-minted MVP Stephen Curry were unanimous choices to make the first team — if you put together a ballot and they’re not on it you’re doing it wrong. This is also the first First Team vote for Anthony Davis, who earned this spot based on his historic season and carrying the Pelicans to the playoffs.

No Hawks made the list — the team ball concepts can hurt come time for individual awards. Fair or not.

Here is the full list. The two forwards are listed first, followed by the center, then the two guards. After the players team is the number of first team votes (in parenthesis) and total points.


LeBron James, Cleveland (129) 645
Anthony Davis, New Orleans (119) 625
Marc Gasol, Memphis (65) 453
Stephen Curry, Golden State (129) 645
James Harden, Houston (125) 637


LaMarcus Aldridge, Portland (13) 390
DeMarcus Cousins, Sacramento (18) 220
Pau Gasol, Chicago (15) 242
Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City (10) 397
Chris Paul, L.A. Clippers (1) 335


Blake Griffin, L.A. Clippers (2) 189
Tim Duncan, San Antonio (6) 167
DeAndre Jordan, L.A. Clippers (12) 175
Klay Thompson, Golden State 122
Kyrie Irving, Cleveland 112

Other players receiving votes, with point totals (First Team votes in parentheses): Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio, 155; Paul Millsap, Atlanta, 70; Al Horford, Atlanta, 64 (1); John Wall, Washington, 50; Jimmy Butler, Chicago, 32; Damian Lillard, Portland, 22; Draymond Green, Golden State, 9; Zach Randolph, Memphis, 7; Jeff Teague, Atlanta, 7; Andrew Bogut, Golden State, 6; Nikola Vucevic, Orlando, 6; DeMar DeRozan, Toronto, 3; Rudy Gay, Sacramento, 3; Andre Drummond, Detroit, 2; Gordon Hayward, Utah, 2; Kyle Korver, Atlanta, 2; Joakim Noah, Chicago, 2; Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas, 2; Dwyane Wade, Miami, 2; Carmelo Anthony, New York, 1; Tyson Chandler, Dallas, 1; Mike Conley, Memphis, 1; Brook Lopez, Brooklyn, 1; Kevin Love, Cleveland, 1; Kyle Lowry, Toronto, 1; Khris Middleton, Milwaukee, 1.