Oakland, CA (SportsNetwork.com) - The Splash Brothers drowned James Harden just before the buzzer and the Warriors survived the Rockets, 99-98, to take Game 2 of the Western Conference finals.
The Warriors saw an eight-point lead trimmed to one following a Harden to Dwight Howard alley-oop with 33.0 seconds left. After Harrison Barnes missed a reverse layup at the other end, the Rockets raced the ball up the court rather than draw up a final play.
Harden was double-teamed by Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson with time winding down and curiously passed to Howard on the perimeter. Howard hot-potatoed the ball right back, Curry poked the ball between Harden's legs, and the clock struck zero before anyone gained control.
"I will take our best player heading downhill on a broken court any day of the week. That's where he feasts," Rockets head coach McHale said, describing the last play.
The Warriors take a 2-0 series lead to Houston on Saturday thanks to the final defensive stop and another clutch performance from the league MVP.
Curry scored 33 points to follow up his 34-point showing in the series opener, and Andrew Bogut stepped up with 14 points, eight rebounds and five blocks.
The final sequence spoiled an otherwise sublime game from Harden, who finished with 38 points on 13-of-21 shooting and added 10 rebounds and nine assists.
"It was frustrating to give the game away like that," a disappointed Harden said. "It was a tough (final) play."
Dwight Howard played 40-plus minutes despite battling a left knee injury and totaled 19 points and 17 boards in a losing effort.
The Warriors never trailed in the fourth quarter and appeared to pull away when Curry took over with under three minutes remaining. After stealing a lazy Trevor Ariza pass, Curry hit a step-back jumper with a hand in his face, then drove left and threw a baseline bounce pass to a driving Bogut, who withstood a Howard shove and snuck in a runner for a 96-89 lead.
It was still an eight-point game before Harden made two free throws, went in for an uncontested dunk and made to more from the stripe to pull the Rockets within 99-96 with under a minute to play.
Corey Brewer forced an 8-second violation in the backcourt, and Howard's slam preceded the dramatic finish.
"It's great competition," Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. "It's two teams that really want to win and get to the Finals."
Curry made four 3-pointers and poured in 15 points in a high-scoring, fast- paced first quarter, which ended with Leandro Barbosa going in for an uncontested layup that put Golden State in front 36-28.
Despite Curry sitting on the bench, the Warriors extended their lead with an 8-0 run to open the second quarter. Andre Iguodala threw down a tomahawk slam over a disinterested Howard to highlight the three-minute stretch, and the Warriors went up by 17 on a Barnes 3-pointer a minute later.
The Rockets, led by Harden, responded with a 23-6 run over the final 7:12 of the half to draw even. Harden accounted for 12 points, and Terrence Jones' alley-oop to Howard made it a 55-55 game at halftime.
The Warriors were hitting 57.5 percent of their shots at the break but turned it over 11 times. While their shooting dipped in the third, they cleaned up their mistakes and narrowly won the back-and-forth quarter to take a 77-75 edge into the fourth.
Curry and Harden were both named to the All-NBA First Team on Thursday, while Thompson, who scored 13 points on 15 shots was named to the Third Team ... The Rockets have lost seven straight to the Warriors dating back to last season ... Josh Smith scored 10 points and 17 shots for the Rockets ... Golden State's Draymond Green filled the box score with 12 points, eight rebounds and seven assists.