When people think of the Golden State Warriors, they usually think of a lot of three-pointers and exciting, fast-paced basketball. However, the Warriors have also been elite defensively all season and can win the ugly games as well, and that's exactly how they advanced to the NBA Finals for the first time in 40 years, taking home a 104-90 Game 5 victory to eliminate the Houston Rockets.
The Warriors won Game 5 despite Stephen Curry shooting just 7-of-21 overall and 3-of-11 from three-point range. Curry initially wore a protective sleeve after his hard fall in Game 4, but he never found any rhythm and ditched the sleeve.
The Warriors won Game 5 despite Draymond Green shooting 3-of-15 and missing all five of his three-pointers. Green admitted after the game how awful he was, and his struggles along with Curry's were the biggest reasons why Golden State shot under 41 percent overall and 9-of-29 from long range.
Adding to the ugliness was Klay Thompson getting kneed in the head by Trevor Ariza, who was also a part of the Curry injury in Game 4. Thompson went to the locker room and was diagnosed with a right ear laceration before returning to the court, only to head back to the locker room when his right ear started bleeding. Then there's this:
#Warriors say Klay Thompson began to show concussion-like symptoms after the game, after not showing any when originally hit in the head.— Scott Howard-Cooper (@SHowardCooper) May 28, 2015
Despite all of this going against the Warriors, they won this game handily thanks to Harrison Barnes's 24 points (13 in the fourth quarter), tenacious defense and dominance on the glass. Golden State harassed James Harden all night long, frustrating him into a playoff-record 13 turnovers and a horrendous 2-of-11 shooting night.
Andre Iguodala and Co. did a whale of a job shutting down the MVP runner-up and Houston in general, as the Rockets shot just a tick over 35 percent and 5-of-24 from three.
While the Warriors' jumpers didn't fall at their usual rate, Golden State relentlessly attacked the boards and dominated the paint. Andrew Bogut didn't score a single point, but he grabbed 14 rebounds, with five of the offensive variety.
Green made up for his woeful shooting with four offensive boards and 13 overall, while Festus Ezeli saw 28 minutes off the bench and grabbed four offensive rebounds and nine overall. The Warriors nabbed 19 offensive rebounds in the game and won the rebounding battle, 59-39.
Furthermore, Golden State scored 50 points in the paint to just 34 for Houston. The Rockets shot just 17-of-41 in the paint as the Warriors did a strong job of challenging shots down low.
Golden State was dominant all season because it could not only run opponents out of the gym with efficient offense, but also suffocate opponents with defense. These Warriors aren't a one-trick pony, and their all-around versatility and depth is why they're going to the NBA Finals, being favored against the Cleveland Cavaliers.
3 other things we learned
James Harden, Rockets went away from what worked in Game 4: Harden enjoyed a virtuoso Game 4 performance, scoring 45 points on 22 shots. Thirty-three of his points came in the second half, and he and the Rockets had a lot of success running high pick and rolls that involved bigs screening well past the three-point line in order to either free the MVP runner-up for pull-up threes or get him rolling downhill toward the bucket.
In Game 5, there weren't enough of these high ball screens, and the ball died in Harden's hands many times. Far too often we saw him isolated on the perimeter pounding the ball into the ground, and the Warriors' defense took advantage of this, turning some of those stagnant possessions into live-ball turnovers. Harden had a really strong postseason overall, but he'll head into the offseason with a bad taste in his mouth thanks to this lousy performance.
Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson will relish the time off: The Splash Brothers will cherish this extended break before the Finals begin on June 4, just like their Cavaliers counterparts in LeBron James and Kyrie Irving. Curry was clearly off after his nasty spill in Game 4, and he'll use this time to heal up his bruised body.
Meanwhile, Thompson is dealing with those concussion symptoms, and even if those symptoms are minor, it'll still be nice to get a week off before another game. Head injuries aren't something to be messed with, so hopefully this issue clears up over the next week. Needless to say, the Warriors need the Splash Brothers to play at a high level to beat LeBron's Cavaliers.
Dwight Howard had a fitting end to an eventful postseason: This postseason featured all the peaks and valleys of Howard, and Game 5 was no different. The big man was dominant at times, especially on the defensive end, but he also struggled to score on post-ups, was hit with a technical foul and nearly committed another flagrant foul on a borderline cheap shot of Iguodala.
Howard finished with 18 points and 16 rebounds in Game 5, which is very close to his overall postseason averages of 16 points and 14 rebounds. On the whole, he was steady and a force to be reckoned with defensively and on the glass. He may not have been as dominant offensively as some people hoped, but at this point, expectations should probably be lowered for him on that end.
Play of the Night
Curry didn't have a good shooting night, but he took Howard to school on this one.