Warriors aim for 2-0 lead over Rockets

(SportsNetwork.com) - The Golden State Warriors will try for a 2-0 lead over the Houston Rockets Thursday night when Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals takes place at Oracle Arena.

The Warriors, the No. 1 seed out west, claimed the series opener thanks to a 110-106 win Tuesday night.

Stephen Curry, the NBA MVP, scored 34 points with six rebounds and five assists as the Warriors defeated the resilient Rockets, who lost center Dwight Howard to a knee injury.

Shaun Livingston deposited 16 of his playoff career-high 18 in the first half and Draymond Green posted 13 points, 12 rebounds and eight assists for Golden State, which is making its first appearance in the conference finals since 1976.

"I was just trying to bring energy off the bench. Our bench has been good all year," Livingston said. "We rely on our depth. Again, I just tried to come in and do my part."

Klay Thompson struggled to 15 points on 6-of-18 shooting -- including 1-of-7 from beyond the arc.

The build up coming into this game was Curry, the league MVP, going against James Harden, who finished second in the voting.

It lived up to the hype as Harden contributed 28 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists to match Curry's strong performance.

"We've done a great job of letting things go. It's all about Game 2 now," Harden said.

Trevor Ariza had 20 points and Josh Smith chipped in 17 points and seven boards for the Rockets, who have lost six straight to the Warriors dating back to last season.

Howard dealt with a knee injury throughout the evening and finished with seven points and 13 rebounds in just over 26 minutes of action.

"I didn't even know Dwight got injured, I was so focused on the game. I hope he is alright," Harden said.

Howard was diagnosed with a left knee sprain and is listed as questionable for Thursday's Game 2.

"I have to listen to my body," Howard said. "The most important thing is that I listen to my body. Nobody can understand an injury but the person that is injured. It's going to be how I feel. If I feel I can tolerate it and go out and play with it, then I will. But my career is the most important thing. I want to do what I can to help this team, but I cannot help the team if I'm hurt."

When Howard went down, the Rockets went to "small ball," but Golden State was fine with that.

"With our small lineup, we can spread the floor pretty well," Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. "It was an interesting chess match."

The Warriors used a 25-6 run to end the first half for a three-point lead at the break, then went on an 11-0 run late in the fourth to help seal the win, but Harden and the Rockets hung around.

Harden made a runner at the buzzer to cut Houston's deficit to 84-79 after three quarters. He then scored six straight Rockets points early in the fourth, the last of which trimmed the margin to 90-89.

Smith buried a 3-pointer minutes later to tie the game at 95-95, then Harden followed a Curry layup with a cross-over jumper over Thompson to keep it deadlocked.

From that point, the Warriors netted the next 11 -- the final seven coming from Curry -- and forced four turnovers over that stretch to take a 108-97 lead with 2:01 remaining.

"It's entertaining basketball but we're both supposed to help our team win and do what we can to impact the win," Curry said of the matchup with Harden. "Hopefully we have a big impact and that's what we're supposed to do."

Houston wouldn't go away as Ariza dialed in a 3-pointer that capped a 9-0 run and brought the visitors within two with 14.6 seconds on the clock. Curry knocked down two free throws to extend the margin to four before Harden missed a 3-pointer in the closing seconds as the Warriors held on.

Game 3 will be Saturday night in Houston.