Oakland, CA - It was 40 years in the making. – Oakland, CA (SportsNetwork.com) - It was 40 years in the making.
The Golden State Warriors are back in the NBA Finals.
Harrison Barnes was huge down the stretch, scoring 13 of his 24 points in the fourth quarter, to help the Warriors to a 104-90 win over the Houston Rockets in Game 5 of the Western Conference finals.
The reigning MVP Stephen Curry, who suffered a head contusion in the Rockets' lone win in this series in Game 4 after a brutal fall, registered a game-high 26 points with eight rebounds and six assists.
Klay Thompson contributed 20 points in over 22 minutes of action despite dealing with foul trouble and an ear laceration throughout the game.
"To get to the Finals for the first time in 40 years is more than relief, it's joy," Warriors rookie head coach Steve Kerr said.
Golden State returns to the Finals for the first time since 1975 when it swept the Washington Bullets in four games to claim the franchise's third title.
The Warriors will host the Eastern Conference champion Cleveland Cavaliers at Oracle Arena in Game 1 on June 4.
"We had a lot of guys that fought," Rockets coach Kevin McHale said. "We didn't play particularly well. We were extraordinarily bad at finishing at the rim."
Coming off a playoff career-high 45 points in Game 4, James Harden was one of those players who didn't finish quite as well as McHale had hoped. Harden had a forgettable performance in this one, finishing with 14 points on 2-of-11 shooting and committing an NBA playoff record 13 turnovers. The last field goal from Harden came with 5:49 remaining in the first half.
The Warriors scored 31 points off 20 Houston turnovers.
Dwight Howard led the Rockets with 18 points and 16 rebounds.
With Thompson battling multiple problems, Andre Iguodala was one of the players called upon to guard Harden and he did a standup job with six assists and four steals in the win.
"(Iguodala) is long and athletic. Just the crowd (and) trying to do a little bit too much. It is what it is," Harden said.
Houston went down 11 early in the third, but Golden State helped the Rockets get back by getting a little aggressive and going into the penalty with over seven minutes left. Thompson was a big part of that, committing his fourth foul of the game 2:18 into the third and his fifth just 22 seconds later. The Rockets responded with a 10-0 run that cut their deficit to 57-56.
Houston trailed by two with under three minutes left in the third before Golden State scored seven straight points, with Iguodala's driving dunk giving the hosts a 74-65 lead. Harden made a free throw and Howard netted two from the line to help the Rockets trim the margin to six entering the fourth.
Thompson returned to the game early in the fourth, assisted on a dunk by Iguodala, then was knocked out of the game with a right ear laceration that required three stitches. Trevor Ariza closed out on Thompson and hit him with a knee to the right side of his head.
"I was trying to be aggressive," Barnes said when Thompson exited. "Obviously they were putting a lot of pressure on Steph. It felt good to see the shots falling."
Barnes picked up the slack with the sharpshooter headed to the locker room, pouring in nine straight points, as the Warriors built an 89-74 advantage following Festus Ezeli's dunk with 6:43 remaining.
Houston ripped off six straight to stay within striking distance, but Barnes' transition dunk pushed the margin back to 95-83 moments later and the Warriors clinched their spot in the championship series.
"I'm very proud and happy with how we played tonight. Everybody on the court produced," Curry said.
The first quarter had a slow pace and was sloppy for the most part, with both teams combining for 14 turnovers in the opening 12 minutes. Houston shot just 33.3 percent but limited the Warriors to 6-of-26 (23.1 percent) from the field. Harden, who had five turnovers by himself in the opening quarter, converted all seven of his free throw attempts and the Rockets entered the second with a 22-17 edge.
"James didn't play well but as I've said all year long, we (aren't here) without him," McHale said. "Sometimes you go out there, you try your best and things just don't work out."
Golden State got it rolling in the second with help from Thompson, who supplied 13 points in the frame. Thompson and Barnes were the only Warriors to score during a 13-2 run to open the second. Thompson fired in successive 3- pointers, then capped the run with one from deep to give Golden State a 30-24 lead.
Curry made two of three free throws in the final seconds to cap the first-half scoring, and he nearly made a buzzer-beating 3-pointer as the Warriors held a 52-46 lead at halftime.
Alvin Attles, the head coach of the Warriors championship winning team in '75, presented the Western Conference trophy to Curry and his teammates after the win ... New Jersey Nets' John Williamson previously had the most turnovers in a playoff game, committing 11 at Philadelphia in 1979 ... Ezeli finished with a playoff career-high 12 points and nine rebounds off the bench ... Andrew Bogut and Draymond Green had 14 and 13 rebounds, respectively, as the Warriors held a 59-39 edge on the glass ... Howard and Bogut were both assessed technical fouls late in the second quarter.