Warriors shrug off Curry absence to beat Rockets
(The Sports Xchange) - With Stephen Curry out of action due to an ankle injury Monday night, Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr was comforted knowing he had Shaun Livingston in reserve.
Oh, and the 2015 NBA Finals Most Valuable Player, too.
Livingston began and ended a key fourth-quarter spurt with baskets, and supersub Andre Iguodala helped make up for Curry's lost firepower with four 3-pointers as the Warriors won a second straight from the Houston Rockets in their best-of-seven series, 115-106.
Golden State, now 2-0 in the postseason after a record-setting, 73-win regular season, was able to win without Curry, who injured his right ankle late in the second quarter of the Warriors' blowout win in Game 1 on Saturday. He had been listed as questionable for Game 2.
The reigning regular-season Most Valuable Player, who scored 24 points in just 20 minutes in Game 1, declared himself out shortly after cutting short a pregame warmup that was designed to test the ankle.
"When you lost the MVP, you have concern," Kerr said. "But we believe in our depth and in our ability to win when we're down a man, even if it is Steph."
Curry's status for Game 3, which is scheduled for Thursday night in Houston, remains up in the air.
"We never want to put winning ahead of a player's career and his health," Kerr said. "We want to make sure Steph is right and his (ankle) is fine and healthy.
"Obviously, being up 2-0 does give us more cushion if we decide to sit him (in Game 3). But it will be based on his health, not the series score."
Livingston started in Curry's place and complemented guard Klay Thompson's 34 points with 16 of his own. He also found time for six assists in 29 minutes.
"He was playing so well, it was tough to take him out," Kerr said of Livingston. "His effort was fantastic."
Livingston's two biggest hoops came in an 11-1 flurry in the fourth quarter after the Rockets, trying to put Saturday's 26-point loss behind them, clung within 88-85 with 9:51 to play.
Livingston began the key run with a jumper, after which the Warriors made seven consecutive free throws, including five by Thompson.
Rockets interim coach J.B. Bickerstaff got nailed with a technical foul along the way, accounting for one of Thompson's foul shots.
Livingston then capped the burst with a fastbreak hoop that created the Warriors' biggest lead of the game to that point, 99-85, with 6:48 left.
"They do such a good job of capitalizing off your missed shots," said Rockets star James Harden, who missed a 4-footer that could have pulled Houston within one before Livingston began the run. "So it went from a three-point lead to six, seven, whatever ... and they just built on it. It's hard to recover from there."
Golden State was never threatened the rest of the way, beating Houston for a sixth consecutive meeting and the 14th time in their past 15 matchups.
Thompson, hitting three 3-pointers and 15 of 16 from the free-throw line, led all scorers. He never attempted more than 12 foul shots nor made more than 10 all season.
Draymond Green had team highs in rebounds (14) and assists (eight) to go with 12 points, and Iguodala dropped seven of his 10 shots en route to 18 points for the Warriors, who shot 49.4 percent from the field and hit eight of their 23 3-point attempts.
Center Andrew Bogut also helped out with 10 points (on 5-for-6 shooting) and seven rebounds.
"You know, there is something to the slogan 'Strength in Numbers.' It's something we really do play by," Thompson said. "We always use it every night."
Harden led the Rockets with 28 points, 13 coming from the line on 15 free throws. However, he shot just 7-for-19 from the field, including 1-for-8 from 3-point range.
Harden, who also had 11 assists, thought a golden opportunity slipped away.
"For sure," he said of Curry's absence. "We played a little bit better (than Game 1) today. Just didn't play well enough to get a win."
Harden noted two key shortcomings: allowing 23 Warriors points after 19 turnovers, and giving up 13 offensive rebounds that produced 18 Golden State points.
Dwight Howard posted a 12-point, 10-rebound double-double for the Rockets, who bettered Golden State in 3-pointers, making 10 of 25, but fell well short from shorter range, finishing at 44.3 percent overall.
"We like to take 3-point shots, and that hasn't changed," Bickerstaff said. "But at certain points in the game, we need to put pressure on the rim. We just have to be a little more patient."
Patrick Beverley and Jason Terry added 13 points apiece for the Rockets, who also will host Game 4 of the series on Sunday.
Down by as many as 11 points in the first half, the Rockets got seven third-quarter points from Harden and rallied within three late in the period.
An interior hoop by Warriors reserve guard Leandro Barbosa extended the lead back to 88-79 in the first minute of the fourth quarter. But as occurred all night, the Rockets wouldn't go away.
Harden hit a tough jumper and Terry added a hoop and two free throws to make it a three-point game.
However, each then missed interior attempts that could have sliced the deficit to one, and the Warriors followed with Livingston's hoops and a parade to the free-throw line, finally pushing the visitors an arm's length away.