The Splash Brothers lock down Harden in the final seconds to win
POSTED: May 22, 2015 2:23 AM ET
Warriors-Rockets Series Recap
Relive the exciting moments as the Warriors topped the Rockets in five games.
OAKLAND, Calif. — To the uninitiated, it was like coming across an old video of Mother Teresa in a hula skirt, seeing Queen Elizabeth smoking a cigar, finding Miley Cyrus fully clothed.
But with Game 2 of the Western Conference finals on the line, Curry and Thompson made their bones by stopping a shot and leaving the Rockets all wet with a 99-98 loss and a 2-0 hole in the best-of-seven series.
Splash Brothers Tie Up Harden
Klay Thompson and Steph Curry collapse on James Harden and he is unable to get a potential game-winning shot off.
The Splash Brothers became the Mash Brothers, squeezing the life and any last desperate attempt by the relentlessly splendid James Harden into a two-man vise.
When Harrison Barnes missed a driving reverse layup with 7.9 seconds to play, it didn't take an Oracle (crowd) to know what was coming next. Trailing by just a point, Harden pushed the ball over mid-court, found his path blocked by the Splashers, gave it up to Dwight Howard, got it back and was promptly smothered.
Curry poked at the ball from his left side, then Thompson came in from the right and the clock ran out with Harden down on his knees like a spent, limp James Brown in search of an encore that for once never came.
For all the pretty pictures that have been painted this season by a Warriors' offense that should be framed in gold and hung behind a velvet rope, the underlying beauty and foundation of what has made Golden State the odds-on favorite to win the NBA championship comes down at the other end of the court.
In fact, the only time the Warriors' No. 2-rated offense has to statistically look up at anything is at their No. 1-rated defense. It's the gas that feeds their engine. It's what fuels the running game and makes the whole thing go.
Just a day before, the official recognition came when Draymond Green and Andrew Bogut were named to the 2015 All-Defense first and second teams respectively. It's the first time the Warriors have had a pair of All-Defensive players in the same season since 1969, when Nate Thurmond and Rudy LaRusso were honored.
Warriors on Game 2 Win
Steve Kerr, Andre Bogut and Stephen Curry talk about the Game 2 win for the Warriors.
It was a night when Curry (33 points, 5-for-11 on 3-pointers, six assists) and Harden (38 points, 10 rebounds, nine assists) could have danced on the head of a pin with their fearless, peerless offensive fireworks.
"Sometimes I want to crack open a beer and get a courtside seat, because these two guys are the two best basketball players in the world," said Bogut. "Steph knocks down a big shot and then we come down and try to stop James and he knocks down a big shot."
Yet it was fitting that it all came down to a final stop.
"Got the ball off the glass, and I'm thinking, just to try to get an easy one," Harden said. "They did a good job of having two guys on me, so I couldn't attack, and when I looked up I saw a red jersey and it was Dwight, so I tried to throw it back to him. At that time I'm thinking five seconds on the clock, so I tried to get the ball back, and it was still two guys right there, and I watched the film, it's just a tough, tough play."
Tougher because Curry and Thompson have been playing the roles of the disrupters in the backcourt all season for a team that finds a sense of defensive urgency to keep digging itself out of tough spots when the alarm bells start clanging. It was the defense that turned everything around in the first round of the playoffs when the Warriors came from 20 points down in a rousing fourth quarter to win Game 3 at New Orleans. Then it was the defense that ultimately found a way to stifle the interior game of Memphis.
In their 10 playoff wins this spring, they have trailed by at least 13 points behind on six occasions. It's not a coincidence that so many of those breathtakingly amazing and gorgeous shots come as the end product of simple down-and-dirty defense that stokes the fire.
"Once [Harrison Barnes] went for the layup and missed and Draymond tried to get the rebound it was kind of me and Klay and Andre [Iguodala] on the other side retreating," Curry said. "You saw James kind of put his head down, you knew he probably wasn't going to pass in that situation, so just to kind of stand him up before the 3-point line, Klay fronted him right to me, I was able to get a body on him. He threw it away to Dwight and threw it right back, so at that point, it's just don't let him get a shot off and try to be the hero, so we were able to get it done."
The Rockets will go home for the next two games telling themselves that they had a pair of chances to win on the road, a play here or a play there that made a difference. But the Warriors won the opener by outplaying the Rockets with "small ball," then came back to take Game 2 by pounding away with their bigs and applying the vise when it was needed.
A flick of a hand from Curry, a reach of an arm from Thompson. A two-man hair shirt that was uncomfortable and impossible to shed, any space sealed off like a tomb, where a last chance went to die.
The horn sounded, confetti rained down and Harden stayed slumped over on the court, swept away in the defensive flood of what really makes the Warriors who they are.
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