OAKLAND: James Harden had Game 2 on his fingertips – and then he didn’t.
Stephen Curry scored 33 points before Harden lost the ball in the closing seconds to end a spectacular duel between the NBA MVP and runner-up, and the Warriors held off the Houston Rockets 99-98 on Thursday night to take a 2-0 lead in the series.
Harden rallied the Rockets from 17 points down in the second quarter and had a chance to finish off the comeback in the fourth. Instead, Klay Thompson harassed him and Curry came over to trap Harden, who lost the ball as time expired.
Harden fell to the floor and put his hands over his head as the Warriors celebrated on the court, the sellout crowd of 19,596 roared, and golden-yellow confetti fell from the rafters.
Harden had 38 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists, and Dwight Howard overcame a sprained left knee that slowed him down to finish with 19 points and 17 rebounds for a Rockets team headed home in a major hole.
Game 3 is Saturday in Houston.
Curry connected on a 3-pointer, then found Bogut under the rim for a layup that sent the 7-footer flexing his muscles and shouting to the roaring, yellow-shirt wearing crowd. Bogut missed the ensuing free throw, but the Warriors led 96-89 with 2:25 left.
Harden kept finding ways to draw fouls and brought Houston back on free throws. The Rockets also forced the Warriors into an 8-second, backcourt violation before Harden found Howard for an alley-oop that sliced Golden State’s lead to 99-98 with 33 seconds remaining.
Harrison Barnes missed a difficult reverse layup contested by Howard as the shot clock nearly expired. Harden got the ball down the court, and McHale elected not to call timeout because his team had the Warriors scrambling and outmanned.
But the Rockets turned to Harden when they needed a boost. He helped Houston regroup with a 23-6 run in the second quarter as they took advantage of Golden State’s sloppy turnovers (17 in all), tying the score at 55-all at the half.
Thompson, Barnes and Leandro Barbosa took turns guarding Harden in the second half with mixed results. The Rockets led by six early in the third quarter, quieting the crowd, then fell behind 83-77 with Harden on the bench early in the fourth.
Golden State Warriors 99 beat Houston Rockets 98
Match schedule for Golden State Warriors
Golden State Warriors v/s Houston Rockets 24th May, 2015
Golden State Warriors v/s Houston Rockets 26th May, 2015