Kevin Durant scored nine of his team-high 35 points in the final 5:35 and Stephen Curry buried a back-breaking 3-pointer with 25.9 seconds remaining Sunday afternoon as the Golden State Warriors outlasted the Houston Rockets 104-100 in Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinals in Oakland, Calif.
The second game in the best-of-seven between the top-seeded Warriors and fourth-seeded Rockets is slated for Tuesday night in Oakland.
In a tight game that featured poor 3-point shooting and turnovers, the Warriors found themselves in an 89-89 tie with six minutes remaining before Durant took charge.
His two free throws with 5:35 left gave Golden State the lead for good, and his three subsequent free throws and two field goals seemingly put the Warriors in command at 100-95 with just 1:26 to go.
But a three-point play by James Harden got Houston back within two, before Curry countered with his 3-pointer that proved to be decisive.
A dunk by Harden with 21.3 seconds to go kept the Rockets alive, and when Chris Paul stole the ball from Durant, Houston had a chance at a tie.
But Paul was pressured into an awkward pass and Eric Gordon stepped out of bounds while retrieving it, allowing the Warriors to hold on.
Paul thought he was fouled on the play and argued the non-call, for which he received a second technical foul and was ejected from the game with 4.4 seconds left.
Curry made the foul shot to complete the scoring.
Durant shot 12-for-15 from the line during his 35-point outing for Golden State, which won despite committing 20 turnovers.
Curry (18 points), Andre Iguodala (14), Draymond Green (14) and Klay Thompson (13) also scored in double figures for the Warriors, who are attempting to win a third consecutive NBA title.
Green also contributed nine rebounds and nine assists to the win.
Harden matched Durant’s 35-point total, but shot just 4 of 16 on 3-pointers and was 9 of 28 overall. He made 13 of his 14 free throws.
Eric Gordon had 27 points and Paul 17 for the Rockets, who are playing the Warriors in the playoffs for the fourth time in the last five seasons.
The Rockets shot just 29.8 percent on 3-pointers, making 14 of 47.
The Warriors led 85-76 in the first minute of the fourth quarter after a pair of Shaun Livingston free throws, before the Rockets took advantage of Curry’s foul trouble to draw even at 89.
Two free throws by Nene at the 6:00 mark finally got Houston even, setting the stage for the late heroics by Durant and Curry.
The Rockets took advantage of 13 Warriors turnovers to forge a 53-53 halftime tie.
Houston shot just 9 of 28 on 3-pointers in the half, but managed to stay even by shooting 12 of 13 on free throws, as compared to Golden State’s 2 of 4, and getting off one more field-goal attempt despite the large foul-shot discrepancy.
—Field Level Media