ALAMEDA, Calif. — As expected, the Golden State Warriors eliminated the Houston Rockets from the NBA playoffs with a decisive and abusive 114-81 victory on April 27 in front of an electric crowd wearing bright yellow “Strength In Numbers” shirts.
The Warriors played Game 5 with pure ease and without the services of point guard Seth Curry, who is sidelined with a Grade 1 MCL knee sprain he suffered in Game 4.
Klay Thompson had 27 points and three rebounds and Draymond Green added 15 points, nine rebounds, eight assists and two blocked shots for the Warriors, who now move on to Round 2, the Western Conference Semi-Finals.
James Harden led the Rockets with 35 points, six rebounds, and six assists. Dwight Howard had eight points and 21 rebounds in nearly 46 minutes of action. Michael Beasley had 11 points and seven rebounds off the bench.
The Ws hit two treys to start the game and let the Rockets know that the 21 buckets — an NBA record in a playoff game — from beyond the arc in Game 4 was no fluke. The carnage continued. Before the Rockets knew it, the Warriors had a 35-16 lead with 1:11 left in the first quarter.
In the second quarter, the Warriors built up a 22-point margin to make the score 59-37 on a three-point play completed by Green with 59 seconds left in the half.
While no other Rocket had more than six points, Harden had 25 points in the first half. Howard owned the six points on 2-for-10 shooting from the field. The Warriors as a team shot 55.8 percent from the field, making 24 of 43 baskets in the first half.
Before the game, Warriors head coach Steve Kerr talked about how the his team’s defense had to get the job done to end the Rockets’ hopes. Kerr’s pregame prognosis was clear, to the point, and exact. The name of the Warrior’s defensive scheme is not to “slow things down,” Kerr said. “We want to speed things up.”
Golden State forced five steals in the first quarter and added one more in the second quarter. The Warriors also enticed the Rockets into 10 turnovers and had four-blocked shots in the first half. Houston got two points from its bench in the first 28 minutes.
“Everything starts with our defense whether Seth is healthy or not,” Kerr said. “Our defense allows us to get out and run. If we get stops or steals we can get out in the open court when we don’t have to stop the game to call a play. That’s ideal for us.”
The Rockets jumped out to a 5-0 in the early ticks of the third quarter, which prompt Kerr to call a timeout early. The minor briefing did the trick. Golden State popped off a 25-7 run, topped off with a 3-point basket by Brandon Rush to give the Warriors a 84-54 edge with 2:52 left in the third quarter.
Houston head coach J.B. Bickerstaff said previously that the Rockets “got to play our best game to beat this team.” Evidently, Houston didn’t get that sense of urgency in the last 24 minutes of the game.
It never got any better for the Rockets in the final quarter. With less than four minutes remaining, Andrew Bogut, Thompson, Livingston, and Green were on the bench after what would be considered a good work day in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Livingston chipped in with 16 points, three rebounds, and three assists for the Warriors while Rush added 15 points.
For whatever reason, Howard stayed in the game until the buzzer sounded. If he choose to do so, Howard can opt out of his contract with Houston to be a free agent.
Jason Terry, who guaranteed a Game 5 victory for Houston, was 0-for-8 shooting from the floor in almost 23 minutes.
The Warriors will play either the Los Angeles Clippers or the Portland Trail Blazers, who own a 3-2 lead in that series.
Despite missing 43 games during the regular season after recovery from complications from back surgery, Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr received the Red Auerbach Trophy for claiming the NBA Coach of the Year honors.
With the assistance of assistant coach Luke Walton, Kerr led the Warriors to an NBA-record 73 regular-season wins, against nine losses (.890 winning percentage). The mark surpassed 72 wins by the Chicago Bulls squad in 1995-1996, which Kerr was a member.
Kerr is the third coach in Warriors history to win the award joining Don Nelson (1991-1992) and Alex Hannum (1963-1964). Kerr has a 141-24 record in two seasons with Golden State.
While he recovered, Walton, who has interviewed for the Sacramento Kings head coaching job, led the Warriors to a 24-0 start this season. Kerr had no problems with saying “I know how lucky I am,” before Game 5 tipoff.
“I am really thrilled to be coaching. It’s really fun,” Kerr said. “I envisioned doing this a long time ago. The biggest break I got was inheriting this team. Most people in their first job have to go through a pretty tough rebuilding job. This was more of a ‘let’s-get-better’ type of job.”
By Antonio R. Harvey
OBSERVER Staff Writer