Kevin Durant scored 35 points in outdueling James Harden and the Golden State Warriors held off the Houston Rockets 104-100 on Sunday in the opener of what is shaping up to be a sensational best-of-seven Western Conference semifinal.
Houston’s Chris Paul was ejected with 4.4 seconds left for a second technical. He had rebounded a missed 3-pointer by Harden that could have tied the game with 9 seconds left and was arguing for a foul.
Draymond Green added 14 points, nine assists and nine rebounds for the two-time defending champion Warriors, who are meeting the Rockets in the postseason for the fourth time in five years and with Houston having never been victorious.
Kevin Durant finds the basket on his way to scoring 35 points for the Golden State Warriors
Harden scored 35 points and Eric Gordon 27 after both struggled early finding their shooting strokes for the cold-shooting Rockets.
They shot 14 for 47 from long range and were without reserve guard Austin Rivers because of an illness.
Harden’s three-point play with 40 seconds left pulled Houston within 100-98. Stephen Curry knocked down a 3 on the other end over Nene moments later and finished with 18 points, seven rebounds and four assists.
Durant, who had combined for 95 points the previous two games against the Clippers, shot 11 for 25 and made 12 of 15 free throws in his fifth straight 30-point playoff performance – matching his career-best streak accomplished from June 1-12, 2017.
Durant helped Golden State Warriors win opener of best-of-seven Western Conference semi
Technical fouls on Paul and Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni 2.1 seconds apart in the final minute of the third allowed the Warriors to take an 83-76 lead into the final 12 minutes after Durant converted the free throws.
Game 2 is Tuesday night back at Oracle Arena.
Klay Thompson scored 13 points on a sprained right ankle.
Both Curry and Thompson had been listed as questionable nursing tender right ankles after they each sprained them in Game 6 against the Clippers on Friday night.
Curry was cleared beforehand but Thompson had to go through warmups before Golden State’s medical staff determined he was fine to play.
Coach Steve Kerr went with Andre Iguodala over 7-foot center Andrew Bogut in the starting five to go smaller out of the gates against the Rockets – the group Kerr has called his best lineup.
Iguodala picked up two quick fouls and Kevon Looney entered and made his first three shots.
The Warriors triumphed 104-100 against the Houston Rockets in Oakland on Sunday
These West powerhouses fought through a seven-game series in last year’s Western Conference finals, when Golden State rallied from a 3-2 deficit to win Game 7 on Houston’s home floor.
Paul is on a mission after he sat out the final two games because of an injured right hamstring he hurt in Game 5. He had 17 points Sunday.
The Rockets missed their final 27 3-pointers in the deciding 2018 game and came out cold again.
When Houston missed a 3 on its initial shot of the game, Golden State fan Jones Castro yelled ‘O for 28!’ He added an ‘O for 29!’ moments later and the Rockets missed their first eight from deep overall before Harden connected at the 4:35 mark of the first.
Houston was 1 for 14 from deep in the first and fell behind 28-19. Gordon missed his first six 3s.
Green picked up his third technical of the postseason 3:13 before halftime and would receive an automatic suspension if he reaches seven.