Warriors hold on to take down Rockets in Game 1
Durant scores 35 to lead Golden State; Celtics shock Bucks in series opener
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.
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.
Steph Curry is COLD BLOODED. ❄️<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/StrengthInNumbers?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#StrengthInNumbers</a> <a href="https://t.co/dho24ed6mk">pic.twitter.com/dho24ed6mk</a>—@NBAonTNT
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.
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.
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.
Green picked up his third technical of the postseason 3:13 before halftime and would receive an automatic suspension if he reaches seven.
Celtics stun Bucks
Al Horford stood his ground as Giannis Antetokounmpo charged his way.
Antetokounmpo, the Milwaukee Bucks' MVP candidate, desperately wanted to provide a spark and cut into a second-half lead against Horford's Boston Celtics in the opener of a second-round playoff series on Sunday. He drove hard into the lane, quickly switched directions and tried to lay the ball up over Horford, who met him at the rim and blocked the shot.
Antetokounmpo corralled the ball and went up a second time only to be met by Horford again, who this time spiked the ball to the court.
The Celtics clamped down on Antetokounmpo all game and cruised past the Bucks, 112-90.
"Our focus was to make sure that we just made it tough on him every time, just making sure he earned everything he got," Horford said. "I felt like we did a pretty good job of that."
Kyrie Irving had 26 points and 11 assists, tying his playoff career high, and Horford added 20 points and 11 rebounds to pace Boston, which controlled the game for long stretches while playing stingy defence against Antetokounmpo.
Jaylen Brown chipped in with 19 points and Gordon Hayward had 13 off the bench for the Celtics.
Antetokounmpo scored 22 points but shot just 7 for 21. He didn't make his first field goal until the first minute of the second quarter.
"It was one of the toughest losses we've ever had, all season, especially at home," Antetokounmpo said.
Game 2 is Tuesday in Milwaukee.