clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Rockets vs. Warriors 2015 final score: 3 things we learned as Golden State advanced to the NBA Finals

New, comments

Harrison Barnes stepped up in the fourth quarter to help the Warriors close out the Rockets and advance to the NBA Finals.

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

The Golden State Warriors advanced to the NBA Finals for the first time since 1975 with a 104-90 Game 5 victory over the Houston Rockets on Wednesday night at Oracle Arena.

Harrison Barnes scored 13 of his 24 points in the fourth quarter as the Warriors pulled away. Klay Thompson added 20 points on 8-of-14 shooting, although the second Splash Brother left the game in the fourth quarter after taking a knee to the head from Trevor Ariza a game after Stephen Curry suffered a head injury. Thompson suffered an ear laceration and needed stitches to stop some bleeding in his ear.

Curry struggled with his shooting for much of the night and ultimately ditched the protective arm sleeve he had on, going 7-of-21 overall and 3-of-11 from three. Despite his shooting struggles, the MVP still finished with 26 points, eight rebounds, six assists and five steals.

Festus Ezeli was the only other Warrior to score in double figures, coming up huge off the bench with 12 points and nine rebounds. Five of those rebounds were of the offensive variety as Golden State racked up 19 offensive rebounds on the night and won the rebounding battle, 59-39.

James Harden followed up his magnificent 45-point night with a performance to forget, scoring 14 points on 2-of-11 shooting while turning the ball over a whopping 13 times, the most ever in a playoff game. Dwight Howard had 18 points and 16 rebounds, but he shot just 5-of-13, was hit with a technical foul and nearly committed another flagrant foul in the fourth quarter when he delivered a hard foul to Andre Iguodala.

All five Rockets starters scored in double figures and Corey Brewer added 16 points off the bench, but no other reserves scored and the team shot just 35.1 percent overall and 5-of-24 from three to finish out their season.

The game got off to a sloppy start, with both teams struggling to knock down shots. Some bad forces by Josh Smith and multiple Harden turnovers plagued the Rockets early, but Howard helped Houston build an eight-point lead by being a one-man wrecking crew on both ends of the floor. The big man scored eight first-quarter points and challenged everything around the rim, with two blocks to show for it.

While Howard shut down the paint, the Warriors couldn't hit from outside. Golden State shot just 6-of-27 overall and 1-of-8 from three in the first quarter, with Curry finally knocking down the team's first three-pointer with just over a minute to go in the opening frame. The Rockets shot just 6-of-18 in the quarter and had seven turnovers, but seven Harden free throws helped them maintain a five-point advantage.

Houston's poor offense continued into the beginning of the second quarter thanks to an abundance of failed Howard post-ups. Thompson finally caught fire, knocking down three threes to key a 13-2 run to start the quarter. Both teams then settled into a nice rhythm as the pace quickened and the shots began to drop at a much higher rate. Thompson's hot streak kept going, while Smith knocked down two threes and Howard threw down an emphatic power slam:

The Warriors opened up an eight-point advantage and held a 52-46 lead at halftime. Thompson scored 13 points in the second quarter before picking up his third foul and taking a seat toward the end of the half.

Thompson scored the first five points of the third quarter to give the Warriors an 11-point lead, but he quickly picked up his fourth foul moments later. He stayed in the game for several possessions before Steve Kerr could get a sub in, and Thompson committed an inexplicable fifth foul reaching in on a Harden drive, sending him to the bench with just over nine minutes to play in the third.

Houston charged back into the game thanks to a parade to the free throw line, although Smith failed to capitalize on several attempts that would have given them the lead. Golden State looked all out of sorts, especially on the offensive end as there were some bad turnovers along with some missed open looks for Curry. The Warriors finally stopped the bleeding by turning up the defense and forcing turnovers, while Curry set off some fireworks:

Jason Terry kept the Rockets right there with 10 points in the frame, although Golden State again threatened to open up a big lead by going up nine points with just over a minute left in the third quarter. However, Houston trimmed that nine-point deficit down to six heading into the final frame thanks to more free throws.

Thompson left the game early in the fourth quarter after taking the knee to the head from Ariza:

But with Thompson in the locker room, Barnes took over the game, scoring nine straight Warriors points to give them a 15-point advantage as Harden's miserable night only got worse.

Brewer helped lead a final Rockets surge with some high energy play on both ends of the floor, but Golden State didn't falter and finished the job despite some missed free throws by Iguodala.

The Warriors will face the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 1 of the NBA Finals on June 4.

3 things we learned

1. Harrison Barnes was the difference

Thompson left the game with his ear injury with 9:30 left in the fourth quarter and the Warriors up eight. With Thompson out and Curry struggling, this could have been the Rockets' chance to make a big move. Instead, Barnes took matters into his own hands by scoring those nine straight points, providing the key secondary scoring that often makes Golden State unbeatable by getting buckets in a variety of ways.

2. James Harden was terrible all night

As great as Harden was in Game 4, he was that bad in this one. Having a bad shooting night is one thing, but shooting poorly while also cooking up turnover after turnover makes it even worse. There were far too many stagnant possessions that featured Harden pounding the ball into the ground, and the Warriors capitalized by turning many of those bad possessions into live-ball turnovers. Lil B was in the house, so perhaps the curse is real?

3. The Warriors can win in any fashion

Many people think of the Warriors as the flashy team that wins by hitting a lot of three-pointers. While that's generally true, Golden State can win any type of game, and that was evident in Game 5. The Warriors didn't shoot very well (40.7 percent overall and 9-of-29 from three), but they dominated the glass and won the points in the paint battle in convincing fashion, 50-34. Also, Golden State's elite defense locked down Harden and the rest of the Rockets' offense, with Iguodala doing a marvelous job on Harden.