Warriors end one Golden State drought
Here comes the old footage of Rick Barry’s underhand free throws. And maybe a few blurry shots of fresh-faced rookie Jamaal Wilkes.
They were the catalysts the last time the Golden State Warriors made it to the NBA Finals, 40 long years ago.
It happened again amid a delirious crowd at the same arena that housed the 1975 champions, the present-day Warriors continuing to run away from teams with a crushing offense rooted in three-point revelry.
The Warriors eliminated the Houston Rockets, 104-90, in Game 5 of the Western Conference finals, adding a few different touches to the usual plan Wednesday, including a ridiculous 59-39 rebounding edge.
As the gold confetti fell from the Oracle Arena ceiling, the Warriors slipped into “Strength in Numbers” T-shirts and lived up to the hype of a team making a record-pace 11.5 three-pointers per playoff game.
There are two championship-starved franchises in the Finals — the Cleveland Cavaliers have never won it — and also a battle between this year’s most valuable player, Stephen Curry, and four-time winner LeBron James. The Finals begin June 4 at Golden State, giving each team an entire week to plan for each other.
“The Bay Area’s been waiting 40-plus years. I think it’s time,” said Curry, who didn’t shoot well Wednesday but seemed otherwise fine after a bad fall in Game 4, finishing with 26 points, eight rebounds, six assists and five steals.
It wasn’t Curry or Klay Thompson who carried the Warriors in the fourth quarter. It was seldom-discussed starter Harrison Barnes, who scored 13 of his 24 points in the game’s final 10 minutes.
James Harden had almost as many turnovers (13) as points (14) for the Rockets, and Dwight Howard shot 38.5% from the field, not the free-throw line.
It was another frustrating finish for Howard, unable to get back to the Finals yet again, six consecutive seasons and counting.
He yelled at teammates many times in Game 5, notably after he got stuck in a defensive switch and Curry flitted past him for a driving layup. He was irritated again when he threw a pass to where he thought Jason Terry would be, only to get credited with a turnover after it bounced out of bounds.
When Barnes blew past him for a running hook shot, Howard couldn’t get mad at anybody. He spiked the ball halfheartedly on the court as Houston called timeout with 8:04 left, down by 13.
“I want to continue to push myself to the limit and remember that no matter how the season ends, I’m still a champion,” Howard said. “I won’t let anybody tell me anything different.”
Despite his poor shooting, Howard had 18 points, 16 rebounds and four blocked shots. Harden, though, was way off the mark, missing nine of 11 shots and scoring 14 points two days after finishing with 45.
Golden State experienced another hold-your-breath moment when Trevor Ariza accidentally kneed Klay Thompson in the head after falling for a pump fake with 9:31 to play. Thompson was down on the court for about two minutes and left the game for good.
He needed stitches on his ear, Warriors Coach Steve Kerr said, and later developed concussion symptoms, the team said in a statement. Thompson had 20 points, making four of six three-point shots.
Despite the Warriors’ backcourt suffering tough scrapes in back-to-back games, Kerr captured the almost delirious thoughts of the franchise and fan base.
“It’s more than relief. It’s joy,” he said. “Forty years is a long time.”
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