OAKLAND — The Warriors stared at the end of their dynasty and said no to that.
They were in a valley of despair, down 17 points, and fought way up the hill to the sunshine and blue sky and refreshing breeze. They took over in the third quarter, like they do. Outscored the Houston Rockets 33-16 in the third, 31-9 in the fourth and won 115-86. Forced a seventh game in Houston Monday night — a great achievement. Something to be proud of, even though the Rockets didn’t have their star point guard, Chris Paul, in Game 6.
Without Paul to run the offense, the Rockets had just 13 assists and a whopping 21 turnovers. They fell apart. Couldn’t shoot. Couldn’t defend. Couldn’t keep up with Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, the Splash Brothers, who outscored the Rockets 37-25 during the second half and put the game away.
Curry finished with 29 points and five 3s. Thompson finished with 35 points and nine 3s —tied for the second-most 3s in a playoff game ever, second to himself. Thompson set the record against the Oklahoma City Thunder during Game 6 of the 2016 Western Conference final when he hit 11 3s. The Warriors were facing elimination down 3-2 in that game, just like Saturday night.
“Klay doesn’t worry about repercussions,” Warriors head coach Steve Kerr said. “He doesn’t worry about judgment and results. The pressure doesn’t seem to bother him much. He just competes and plays. The two-way ability of this guy, hounding the MVP of the league most likely, all game, and continuing to rain down 3-pointers, he’s amazing.”
The MVP of the league most likely will be James Harden, who shot 10 of 24 from the field, scored 32 points and had nine assists and nine turnovers. Thompson made his life miserable.
Harden needed help. No one else on the Rockets had more than two assists or 19 points. Usually, Paul helps Harden. They share the burden of scoring and passing. But Paul sat out with a sore right hamstring, an injury he suffered at the end of Game 5.
“He’ll play as soon as he can,” Rockets head coach Mike D’Antoni said before the game. “He’s going to play as soon as he’s able to walk or run. He is getting treatments around the clock. You never know; the body heals at different rates.”
The Warriors were without one of their starters, too — Andre Iguodala. He missed his third game in a row with a left lateral leg contusion. “We’re operating under the assumption he will not play in Game 7,” Kerr said. “It’s a bone bruise. There’s not a timetable. It’s more up to the individual and how he’s feeling, and we don’t really know.”
The Warriors are 1-4 against the Rockets without Iguodala this season.
Before Game 6, a reporter asked Kerr if he expected the Warriors to show their championship pedigree Saturday night. “When you’ve been through things together, adversity, you have a deeper level of confidence,” Kerr said. “Our guys have been through a lot. I think we’ll be ready to play.”
But the Warriors weren’t ready to play, not at first. Kerr didn’t have them prepared.
The Rockets made eight 3-pointers during the first quarter, and the Warriors made just one. The Rockets scored 19 fast-break points in the first, and the Warriors scored just four. The Rockets took the fight to the Warriors and the Warriors backed down.