Stephen Curry scored all 33 of his points in the second half as the Golden State Warriors shook off the absence of Kevin Durant to beat the Houston Rockets 118-113 and advance to the Western Conference finals.
The two-time defending champions punched their ticket to the NBA’s final four for the fifth consecutive season and eliminated the Rockets from the postseason for the fourth time in five years.
“We knew at some point we would have a chance to steal this game and we did,” said Curry, who played with a dislocated finger on his left hand.
The Warriors clinched the series in six games by reverting to their championship form pre-Durant, who was injured in game five.
Reigning NBA finals MVP Durant suffered a calf strain in the third quarter of game five. Golden State is hoping to get him back before the end of the playoffs.
“We miss our guy but we know he is going to be back,” said Curry of Durant. “This whole playoff run he has been the best player in the league and has carried us so the least we could do is have his back tonight and move on to the next round.”
Durant’s status is uncertain for game one of the Western Conference finals On Tuesday in Oakland, California, against either the Portland Trail Blazers or the Denver Nuggets.
Warriors forward Draymond Green said they had to revert to their vintage championship form from before Durant joined them in 2016.
“There were some times it felt like that — a lot of movement just trying to push the tempo,” Green said. “With Kevin, you can kind of be lazy knowing you can throw the ball to (him) and he’ll get that bucket. It definitely was a little throwback for us, for sure.”
Curry, who went scoreless in the opening half, discovered his scoring touch after the break — especially in the fourth quarter where he poured in 23 points.
Scoreless on zero-for-five shooting in the first half, Curry sank a pair of clutch three-pointers down the stretch of the fourth. He was a perfect eight-for-eight from the foul line in the final 30 seconds.
“I just had to stay out of foul trouble,” Curry said. “The guys were telling me to be aggressive and that the floodgates would open at some point. In the fourth quarter it was amazing.
“I was telling myself that if I could get on the court and play consistent minutes, I could do something.
“A night like tonight doesn’t happen without belief in myself and the people around me pouring in positivity.”
With the Rockets trailing 107-104 Klay Thompson drained a three-point dagger with 36 seconds remaining to clinch the series for the Warriors.
“It is like he is playing in the park shooting on a chain-link net,” said Curry of Thompson. “We don’t win this game tonight without everybody on the court, especially Klay.”
Thompson added 27 points on seven-of-13 three-point shooting, and the Golden State bench contributed 33 points, with Kevon Looney (14 points) and Shaun Livingston (11) both scoring in double figures.
James Harden paced the Rockets with 35 points and added eight rebounds and four steals. Chris Paul produced his best game of the series with 27 points and 11 rebounds but his season is now over.