|Klay Thompson - Getty Images|
Klay Thompson knew Golden State had to come together, that every player needed to raise his game with Stephen Curry sidelined. “None of us can do it alone,” Thompson had insisted hours earlier.
Thompson did his part, scoring 27 points with seven three-pointers as the Warriors rolled into the second round of the playoffs without their injured superstar, thoroughly embarrassing the Houston Rockets 114-81 on Wednesday night in Game 5.
“Urgency of the game and we did not want to go back to Houston — it’s a long flight,” Thompson said of his extra motivation.
Draymond Green added 15 points, nine rebounds and eight assists for the Warriors, who will face the winner of the Clippers-Trail Blazers series. Portland lead 3-2. “Everybody, they think Steph goes down and the entire series changes. But we thought otherwise,” Green said.
Without the MVP, Curry’s fellow Splash Brother set the tone from the opening tip. Thompson became the first player in NBA history to make at least seven threes in consecutive playoff games, while Shaun Livingston scored 16 points for his third double-digit performance in three games while starting in Curry’s place this series.
“We’re blessed, we are really lucky. You lose your point guard, you lose the MVP, and to be able to throw Shaun Livingston out there, he’s a fantastic basketball player, a great team-mate,” coach Steve Kerr said.
Curry, in a brown sport coat on the bench and nursing his sprained right knee, emphatically bobbed his head, clapped and bowed to Thompson during starter introductions. He even worked the officials during a timeout, and gestured with hand signals to celebrate big plays.
James Harden scored 25 of Houston’s 37 first-half points on the way to 35 points, but the Rockets had no chance with a one-man show against the deep defending champions.
So much for Jason Terry’s guarantee there would be a Game 6 back in Houston. “The season, from the beginning, wasn’t going our way. Just had too many distractions,” Harden said. “It’s just been like a bumpy road this entire season.”
Thompson hit a way-back, Curry-like three from 31 feet at the top of the arc with 5:37 left in the third. He shot seven of 11 from long range, 10 for 14 overall.
Curry could only grin, cheer and enjoy every second of seeing his team do so well without him. “He was just joking around and having a lot of fun. It was a game with a lot of joy,” Kerr said. “Steph was having a great time.”
The NBA’s leading scorer is sidelined for at least two weeks with a sprained MCL that happened when he slipped awkwardly on the final play of the first half of Sunday’s Game 4 and his legs split apart.
A day after Kerr was voted NBA Coach of the Year, his team took the first step toward a repeat title by following up its record 73-win season by so confidently handling Houston. Thompson started things off with a quick three-pointer, igniting the yellow-clad, “Strength in Numbers” sellout crowd at Oracle Arena. Green also hit from long range and Houston called a quick timeout.
Harden scored 14 early points on six-of-seven shooting, but the rest of the Rockets were 0 for 16 before Patrick Beverley’s follow shot with 11:26 left in the second quarter following Michael Beasley’s shanked alley-oop dunk try.
From the moment Curry went down, the Warriors took their game up a notch with a spectacular second half in Game 4, finishing the 121-94 victory with a playoff-record 21 three-pointers and 38 assists on 46 field goals.
Terry guaranteed a Game 5 win, telling the Houston Chronicle, “That’s going to be a long flight for them to come back to Houston.” Amused, Golden State just shrugged it off.
Dwight Howard capped his awful series with eight points on three-for-13 shooting and 21 rebounds, remaining on the floor long after the rest of the starters were finished. “He wanted to stay, he wanted to finish,” interim Rockets coach JB Bickerstaff said. “He didn’t want to quit. He didn’t want to lay down and bail out of the fight. ... That’s the image he wanted to leave people with.”
Elsewhere, the Blazers capitalised on the absence of injured Chris Paul and Blake Griffin to beat the Los Angeles Clippers 108-98 in Game 5 of their first-round series.
CJ McCollum led the Blazers with 27 points. They are up 3-2 and could close it out Friday in Portland. If Game 7 is needed, it would be Saturday back at Staples Center.
“We’ve got a unique opportunity to play an elimination game at home, and now we want to make sure we take full advantage of it,” McCollum said.
In Miami, Courtney Lee’s three-pointer with 25.2 seconds left put Charlotte ahead to stay, and the Hornets beat the Heat 90-88 in Game 5 of their Eastern Conference first-round series.
The Hornets have won three straight games in the series, and will take a 3-2 lead into a potential Game 6 clincher on Friday night.
Marvin Williams led the Hornets with 17 points, while Al Jefferson and Kemba Walker each had 14 for Charlotte — who got their first road playoff win in 14 years. Jeremy Lin added 11. Dwyane Wade scored 25 for Miami, while Luol Deng scored 15, Joe Johnson added 13 and Hassan Whiteside finished with 11 points and 12 rebounds.