Kevin Durant scored 29 points and Klay Thompson added 21 on Tuesday as the Golden State Warriors downed the Houston Rockets 115-109 in a bruising NBA playoff clash.
The reigning champion Warriors never trailed, but they had to battle to the end to take a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven Western Conference second-round series, which shifts to Houston for game three on Saturday.
Both teams had injury scares in the first quarter, when Houston’s 2018 NBA Most Valuable Player James Harden departed with a left eye injury after he was inadvertently swiped in the face by Draymond Green as they battled for the ball.
Warriors guard Stephen Curry left briefly with a dislocated middle finger on his left hand, returning with it taped up before the quarter ended.
Harden returned in the second quarter, but appeared to feel discomfort from the injury during the game, sometimes squinting in the bright lights.
“He got raked pretty good in the eyes,” Houston coach Mike D’Antoni said of Harden, who finished with 29 points – including 13 in the fourth quarter. “I’m sure he would have loved to have played better, but under the circumstances I thought he played great.”
D’Antoni said he knew Harden would return to the contest unless the injury was “catastrophic” but even with their superstar on the court the Rockets couldn’t find a way past the Warriors.
“Tonight we just stayed the course,” Thompson said.
Houston trimmed a 15-point deficit to three points in the fourth quarter, but their 18 turnovers, leading to 24 Warriors points, were ultimately too costly.
Curry helped the Warriors’ cause with 20 points and Green contributed a double-double of 15 points and 12 rebounds along with seven assists.
“We had our chances toward the end,” D’Antoni said. “They made big plays.”
Antetokounmpo fuels Bucks
Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks bounced back with a vengeance Tuesday, routing the Boston Celtics 123-102 to knot their NBA playoff series at one game apiece.
The top-seeded Bucks, who fell 112-90 at home to the Celtics in the Eastern Conference series opener, weren’t about to allow a repeat.
Antetokounmpo scored 29 points and pulled down 10 rebounds and Khris Middleton connected on seven of 10 from three-point range on the way to 28 points as the Bucks regained home court advantage in the best-of-seven series.
“We got an ass-whupping in game one, so we had to get game two,” Antetokounmpo said. “It’s tough when a team comes into your home and gets the two first games so we had that in the back of our minds. We came out, we played hard, we moved the ball, we trusted one another and that’s why we got a win.”
The Bucks drained a club playoff record 20 three-pointers and clamped down defensively, seizing control with 35 points in the third quarter in a game in which they led by as many as 30 points.
Middleton made five of his three-pointers before halftime as Milwaukee took a 59-55 lead into the break.
He added another couple of three-pointers early in the third before Antetokounmpo took charge.
Milwaukee’s Most Valuable Player candidate drove the lane to earn a pair of free-throws, made a three-pointer and then assisted on Ersan Ilyasova’s jump shot.
A tip-in basket and another free-throw from Antetokounmpo added to Milwaukee’s 12-0 scoring run, broken up by a three-pointer from Boston’s Aron Baynes.
Antetokounmpo scored 15 points in the period and the Bucks closed the quarter on a 24-2 scoring run that essentially sealed Boston’s fate.
Marcus Morris led the Celtics with 17 points as star guard Kyrie Irving was held to nine points – connecting on just four of 18 shots from the field.
Antetokounmpo said the Bucks will need to come up with more of the same when the series shifts to Boston for game three on Friday.
“We’ve just got to pick it up from where we left off this game,” he said.