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5 Clutch Points: Short-handed Warriors take down Rockets in 6 after 4th quarter Stephen Curry barrage


Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors put on a show in the fourth quarter on Friday night, leading to a 118-113 road win over the Houston Rockets to put a bow on this series. Despite a scoreless start to the first half, Curry and company made the shots down the stretch to take out their biggest playoff rivals yet, moving on to the Western Conference Finals for a fifth straight year.

These are 5 Clutch Points from Game 6 of the conference semifinals:

Steph Curry’s blazing night

Game 6 started off much of the same for Stephen Curry as his Game 5 did, except a tad worse. The two-time MVP had to have a big night, but he went scoreless in the first half for the first time in the playoffs and only the second time in his career, going 0-for-5 from the field and a turnover.

The Warriors figured to need Curry for 40 or more minutes, but that went to a wash when Curry picked up his second foul at the 6:40 mark of the first quarter and consequently his third midway in the second quarter, forcing him to sit the last five minutes of the half.

Yet even with a scoreless Curry, the Warriors were tied at 57 at the half, giving some level of hope that Curry would find his stroke after coming out of the locker room.

And boy did he…

Curry scored his first bucket two minutes into the third with a layup and then got to the foul line to convert a technical free throw, but it was a corner three over Iman Shumpert that ultimately got him going and opened the flood gates for another Curry Flurry down the stretch.

The two-time MVP scored 10 points in the third, but would make most of his damage in the fourth — burying trey after trey to take the air out of the Rockets hopes of winning this game at home and forcing a Game 7.

Shots like this one over a late-contesting Clint Capela would give Curry the visuals he needed to torch the Rockets from the outside and get into a rhythm.

Yet flashes of the old Steph Curry would come down the pipe after a 97-97 score with five minutes left would force these two teams to bunker down and make every possession count. However Curry would be unbothered by that pressure, draining shots like this pull-up wing three coming off a Draymond Green screen.

If that wasn’t enough, Curry gave Warriors fans a nostalgic trip back to 2015, when he took Matthew Dellavedova for a waltz in the 2015 NBA Finals.

Wearing his Under Armour Curry 1: Splash Party colorway — the same he used during the Game 6 that clinched the Warriors’ first title in 40 years — Curry took P.J. Tucker dancing as well, this one a much-more renowned defender.

It’s worth noting that Curry had been bothered by soreness in his left hand after getting fouled on the previous 3-pointer (not called), yet he still had enough juice to put Tucker in a blender and bury this cold-blooded three to give Golden State a five-point lead.

Following a Klay Thompson dagger from the wing, Curry would go on to make eight straight free throws to salt the game away — scoring 23 points in the fourth quarter and finishing with 33 for the game.

Curry went from having zero point at halftime to leading the team in scoring — all in a half’s work — likely the best performance of his playoff career.

“Game 6 Klay” in full effect

While Curry’s late-game pyrotechnics stole the headlines, it was Klay Thompson who kept the Warriors in the game during the first half, scoring 21 points and making up for Curry’s non-production.

The Splash Brother avidly looked for his shot and cashed in early, burying five 3-pointers in the first half to lead the way.

Thompson has had a couple of notable Game 6 performances — a 41-point, 11-threes night against the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2016 and a 35-point, nine-trey performance against these same Rockets last postseason. While Friday night’s score sheet won’t make as rousing an impression as the other two — Thompson came up big once again in Game 6 — staying true to the moniker “Game 6 Klay.”

The Warriors sharpshooter did work at both ends, drawing the James Harden matchup just as many time as Andre Iguodala and making some clutch plays on defense. Take for instance this held ball on a driving Eric Gordon, the same man who had largely outplayed him throughout the series.

The stop was important in swinging the balance of the game, as both teams had to grind for Buckets. The Warriors would the possession after Thompson’s tip, which would lead to a Curry three to put them up by five.

It’s plays like those that contribute to winning basketball and yet another reason Golden State can’t be counted out when the chips are down.

If that wasn’t enough, Thompson hit perhaps the biggest shot of the night — a shot with the proverbial “Strength In Numbers” look to it.

Curry once again drew two defenders onto the perimeter, found Draymond Green who fired it to the corner to an open Andre Iguodala, needing one more swing of the ball to an open Thompson on the wing to make it a two-possession game.

BANG! indeed.

The unsung heroes

As much as Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson came up big like they would need to come away with this vital road win, the Warriors needed an all-around effort to pull this game off without a talent of Kevin Durant’s caliber.

Andre Iguodala stepped up with huge contributions, playing his best game of the postseason with 17 points and five steals, including a 5-of-8 shooting night from beyond the arc, becoming the third Splash Brother that Golden State sorely needed.

Only Curry (four), Thompson (seven) and Iguodala (five) made threes for the Warriors, combining for the 16 that kept them alive against a hot-firing Rockets team.

Friday night was the first time since 2013 that the versatile wing had made five 3-pointers in a game (h/t Anthony Slater of The Athletic).

Kevon Looney was equally important for the Warriors, as his 14 points off the bench and five rebounds (four offensive) in his 20 minutes of play were vital against a scrappy Rockets defense that hoped to limit Golden State’s second chances.

Looney was active pounding the glass and got the Warriors some extra possessions, along with some active defensive play. Yet his time to shine would come late in the game, as he had the bucket that broke the tie and eventually got Golden State in the lead for the final 3:43 of regulation.

Though perhaps the most stark contribution was that of Shaun Livingston.

Possibly in his last NBA season, the veteran floor general was a game-best plus-14 on the night, burying key shots that kept the Warriors in the game.

While his game has slowed down since his first few successful seasons with Golden State, the mid-range master contributed 11 of the total 33 bench points on Friday — and the Warriors needed every one.

It was heady play and transition efforts like the one above that made gutting out a victory like Game 6 possible — and all of these cogs played a part in it.

“Just a champion,” Steve Kerr said of Livingston. “A winner. The body just doesn’t respond anymore and it gets tougher and tougher. I’ve been there. But a guy like Shaun, Andre, to put in the amount of work they do to prepare for each game and then to come through in these situations, it’s remarkable.”

One night of bliss, three nights of rest

The Warriors walked away with the best possible result — winning on the road and getting their biggest threat for a championship out of contention. Yet this win comes with an added bonus.

The two-time defending champs will get three full days of rest before taking on the Western Conference Finals on Tuesday — a full two extra days of rest over the Denver Nuggets or the Portland Trail Blazers, depending on who comes out of a high-stakes Game 7 on Sunday.

Head coach Steve Kerr has played his starters very heavy minutes in this series, and even regrettably so after seeing his bench perform this well in Game 6.

“I don’t know how we could have done it without an incredible culmination of talent and character,” said Kerr. “…I also want to single out the bench. Just an amazing night for a group of guys who hadn’t played this entire series. Houston puts so much pressure on you in isolation that frankly we just decided to stick with our best defenders for the first five games and obviously injuries forced us to use the bench.

“I probably should’ve used them earlier. Over the years we’ve played a lot of people. We like to use our bench. We talked about ‘Strength In Numbers’ but the coach wasn’t doing much of that for the first five games.”

This is a big admission of blame by Kerr and one most other coaches wouldn’t so openly admit to. Yet there is a culture of transparency with this team and that starts with the man at the helm.

The Rockets were high stakes last season and they were again in this series, and Kerr chose to trot out his best knights in order to gain an advantage early. It worked — but it also showed how weak the bench can be without Andre Iguodala as the X-factor.

Kerr will give the team the weekend off to recuperate after many starters played over 40 minutes in several games throughout the series, but the Warriors will reconvene on Monday, once the winner of the other series is known, to game plan accordingly for this Western Conference Finals.

The challenge will be to keep this roster healthy until Durant can return to the lineup, as he is set to be re-evaluated next week. DeMarcus Cousins could potentially return for the upcoming series, which could be a welcome sight for the Warriors and another task for Kerr to figure out down the road.

What’s next for the Rockets?

The Rockets started Game 6 as seven-point favorites to win this game, one which saw a reversal of fortune similar to what they had experienced last postseason — not the same luck though.

While Houston lost its second-most valuable player in Chris Paul in 2018, the Warriors lost the one player that had been locked in the entire postseason and had yet to have a “bad” game throughout the playoffs.

That alone wasn’t good enough for them to smell the blood and go for the kill in Game 5, and it wasn’t nearly enough to dethrone a team determined to go back to its origins as underdogs and show their collective mettle.

As many analysts and pundits had said before the game — this was the Warriors at their most vulnerable and if the Rockets can’t walk away with the series now, it’s likely they never will — not with this core group at least.

Yet there is always some truth in every bold statement. The way I look at it, a lion is always more dangerous when it’s wounded, as he abandons the territorial instinct and the survival instinct kicks in — making it fight for its life.

This is what the Warriors were in a Game 6, on a hostile crowd, an underdog, with all the odds against them. Golden State was vulnerable, but it never stopped being dangerous, and a collective effort showed this bench could hold it down long enough for the Splash Brothers to come through when it was time to come through.

Rockets general manager Daryl Morey summed it up best: “You come at the king, you best not miss.”

The Rockets came at the defending champions and actually had all the ingredients in a formula meant to defeat this very team: they won the rebounding battle (including offensive boards), they turned the ball over less, they made more threes and even had their top two players have top-notch numbers.

However this is likely a fitting conclusion to the end of an era for the Morey-led Rockets — basketball isn’t solely about numbers — and nothing proved that more than Game 6.

Favored by the odds, with the home court advantage against a team they admittedly obsessed over and constantly scouted against. Built a roster specifically to target their weaknesses, played a favorable pace, and even presented a case against the officials just in time to bring enough controversy after a Game 1 loss.

The Rockets pulled every trick in the book, emptied every bullet left in the chamber, and have nothing to show for it — now eliminated by the Warriors in four out of the last five postseasons.

It did not matter than James Harden led all scorers with 35 points, or that Chris Paul has his best game of the season with 27-11-6. It did not matter that P.J. Tucker, Clint Capela and Austin Rivers had sound contributions.

It didn’t matter that the Warriors were in much less than full force without DeMarcus Cousins and Durant — the Rockets didn’t show a championship mettle when it counted, they ran out of numbers and answers against a team with four years of championship experience.

Houston played a style that offers little rewards unless there is a win behind it, and THAT is perhaps the most crushing part of their postseason exit.

The post 5 Clutch Points: Short-handed Warriors take down Rockets in 6 after 4th quarter Stephen Curry barrage appeared first on ClutchPoints.

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