OAKLAND, Calif. — Right about now, the series between the defending champions Golden State Warriors and Houston Rockets may be the best in the 2019 NBA Playoffs thus far.
After the game was decided 104-99 by the Warriors in Game 5, it’s understandable and evident that Game 6 will be that much more interesting with the possible absence of Kevin Durant.
He left the game late in the third quarter with a right calf strain and did not return. Durant is scheduled for an MRI while the Warriors travel to Houston.
“Well, we’re all obviously disappointed for him,” Warriors head coach Steve Coach said following the victory that put his team up 3-2 in the series. “We’re excited about the win. But concerned for Kevin. He’s been on this incredible playoff run. We’ll see how Kevin is doing (Thursday).”
Durant had 22 points, 20 in the first half, five rebounds, and four assists in 32 minutes. He actually made his last basket before he went limping back up the floor on defense. The look on his face was one of confusion.
“You lose your best player, it’s deflating,” said Durant’s teammate Klay Thompson, who had 27 points, five made 3-pointers, four rebounds, and three steals. “We have a lot of competitors on this team that plays with a great heart. Guys stepped up. It was a great thing.”
Steph Curry had 25 points, six rebounds, and five assists in the victory. Draymond Green, who has been on a playoff tear, added eight points, 12 rebounds, and 11 assists. The Warriors may need a little more juice from Green in Game 6 with Durant’s uncertainty.
“The one thing I think everybody understood and understands as a whole is not one person is going to fill that role (of replacing Durant),” Green said. “We’re going to have to collectively do that. We really have to rely on each other.”
James Harden led the Rockets with 31 points, eight assists, four rebounds, and four steals. Eric Gordon added 19 points while PJ Tucker contributed 13 points, 10 rebounds, two steals, and one blocked shot in 45 minutes.
“Game 6 we got to do better, have to rebound the basketball as a team, not leak out,” Harden said. “We have to limit their opportunities, open three, things like that. Offensively, not turn the ball over as much as we did and give ourselves the best chance.”
The Warriors recorded 14 rebounds and 11 assists in the first quarter to lead 31-17. Thompson had 12 points, including two 3-pointers during the charge. Golden State led by as many as 18 points in the first half, leading 57-43 at the break.
Durant had 20 points and Thompson added 17 in the first 24 minutes of action. The first half of force was what Warriors head coach Steve Kerr had been preaching in the two road losses by the Ws.
The Rockets clawed their way back into the game in the third quarter by outscoring the Warriors 26-15 to take a 69-68 lead on a basket by Harden at the 1:15 mark. Durant’s exit made it a little more manageable for the Rockets to surge on the offensive end.
The fourth quarter started with a 72-72.
The Warriors built up an eight-point lead, making the score 99-91 on a layup by Andre Iguodala with 2:03 left to play. Harden’s basket cut the lead 102-99 with 18 seconds to go, But Thompson scored on a reverse layup with four ticks left on the clock that sealed the win for the Warriors.
Game 6 of the best-of-seven series is May 10 at the Toyota Center in Houston.
“Now we got two more games. Got to win them both,” said Houston head coach Mike D’Antoni. “We are home. It’s just a must win. We know that. It was a must win tonight. Always a must win.”
OBSERVER Staff Report.