Los Angeles (dpa) – Thanks to Stephen Curry, the Golden State Warriors took care of the Houston Rockets in a hurry.
Curry scored a spectacular 40 points Saturday night and the Warriors moved within one win of their first NBA Finals in 40 years with a convincing 115-80 road rout of the Houston Rockets.
Draymond Green had 17 points and 13 rebounds for the top-seeded Warriors, who opened a virtually insurmountable 3-0 lead in the Western Conference finals. In 116 tries, no team in NBA history has rallied from a 3-0 deficit to win a best-of-seven playoff series.
“We have a great opportunity to close out the series,” Curry said. “This was our best game of the series by far. It gave us some momentum, and we want to capitalize on it.”
The NBA Most Valuable Player, Curry dueled James Harden of the Rockets through the first two games, a pair of narrow home wins by the top-seeded Warriors. This game was no contest, primarily because Curry thoroughly outplayed Harden, the MVP runner-up.
After averaging 33.5 points with 11 three-pointers and 5.5 assists in the first two games, Curry shot a scorching 12-of-19 from the field, including 7-of-9 from the arc, while adding seven assists. He scored 14 points in a three-minute stretch of the second quarter and 10 in a three-minute span of the third period.
“When you get a few to go down early in the game, it just builds your confidence even more,” Curry said.
“Steph was Steph,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “He’s the MVP. He’s had a brilliant season. The shooting is hard to describe. I don’t think we’ve ever seen anyone shoot the ball the way Steph has … just a tremendous performance.”
Curry also shattered the NBA record for three-pointers in a postseason with 64 in 13 games. The previous mark was 58 by Reggie Miller in 22 games in 2000.
“I don’t think we’ve seen anybody this quick, with the ability to create space and pull up from six or seven feet behind the line, with this kind of fearlessness and confidence,” Kerr said. “He’s really something.”
Meanwhile, Harden had trouble finding his rhythm and finished with 17 points on 3-of-16 shooting. He had averaged 33.0 points, 10.5 rebounds and 9.0 assists through the first two games.
“I felt like we were ready to play our A game,” Kerr said. “We did the job on James, who is so hard to slow down.”
The second-seeded Rockets were inexplicably lethargic at the start and the Warriors pounced, silencing the raucous Toyota Center crowd and racing to a 30-18 lead after one quarter despite just three points from Curry.
“I thought we’d come out with a little more juice,” Rockets coach Kevin McHale said.
Houston was still within 38-29 midway through the second quarter before Curry caught fire. He had the record-breaking three-pointer, three free throws after being fouled on a three-pointer and a short jumper to push the lead to 54-34 with 3:13 to go.
Golden State held a 62-37 halftime advantage, committing just one turnover while holding Harden to 1-of-8 shooting.
“We’re as desperate as they are,” Curry said. “That’s what you saw in the first half, especially with the energy and effort and focus that we came out with.”
“We were too relaxed, too comfortable,” Harden said.
The Rockets pulled within 18 points early in the third quarter just as Curry began heating up again. He had two three-pointers – talking to fans in the expensive seats after each one – around an exquisite lefthanded layup banked high off the glass, rebuilding the bulge to 74-50 midway through the period. Houston got no closer.
“He makes you pay,” McHale said. “The kid’s a phenomenal talent. He was very patient. He let his offence come to him, and when it came, it came in bunches.”
Klay Thompson scored 17 points and Australia’s Andrew Bogut added 12 and 12 rebounds for Golden State, which has not been to the NBA Finals since winning its last title in 1975.
“We understand the moment and I think I do appeciate how much work has gone into it,” Curry said.
Josh Smith scored 16 points and Dwight Howard had 14 and 14 rebounds for the Rockets, who will try to avoid the sweep in Game 4 on Monday.
“We’ve got nothing else to do,” McHale said. “We’ve got to come out and fight.”