BY DANIEL GLUSKOTER
The Warriors survived a third quarter injury to Kevin Durant to hold off the Houston Rockets 104-99 in a nail-bitter Wednesday night. The victory gave Golden State a 3-2 lead in the best of seven semi-final series, moving them within a game of advancing to the Western Conference finals.
Durant suffered a non-contact strained right calf injury with just over two minutes remaining in the third quarter, landing awkwardly following a basket that put the Warriors up 68-65. He’s scheduled for an MRI Thursday, and his status for Game 6 in Houston (6PM Friday) is highly questionable.
A 17-0 Warriors run in the second quarter gave Golden State a 57-37 lead, but the Rockets chipped away to close the gap to 14 at the half before taking the lead following Durant’s injury with the score tied at 72 after three.
Steph Curry, held to five points in the first half, stepped up in Durant’s absence and finished with 25 while extending his NBA-record streak of 101 playoff games with a three-point basket as the Warriors shot 58% following the injury.
Klay Thompson scored a team-high 27 points (11-of-22 FG, 5-10 3FG), adding four rebounds and three steals in 44 minutes, while Draymond Green posted a team-high 12 rebounds and a game-high 11 assists. Durant added 22 before his departure.
Houston was again paced by James Harden’s 31 points, but he only had five in the fourth quarter. Eric Gordon added 19. P.J. Tucker contributed 13 points and 10 boards. Clint Capela added a game-high 14 rebounds for the Rockets.
Following the game, Warriors coach Steve Kerr was asked about the teams post-game mood considering Durant’s injury . “We’re excited about the win, but concerned for Kevin and disappointed for him. If Kevin is out, then what you saw in the fourth quarter is what you’re going to have to see going forward. We’re going to have to find a way. He’s been on this incredible playoff run. I’m proud of our guys for pulling the game out.
Asked about his teams response to the injury, Kerr added “They responded beautifully. We have to play differently because he’s such a huge part of what we do. I think you saw Steph go into a different mode when Kevin went out. He knew he had to be the offensive fulcrum. He knew things were going to run through him. He took over that fourth quarter. It wasn’t a great night for him until that point. He was brilliant in the fourth when we absolutely needed it.”
The Warriors are now 16 -7 in playoff games following a loss going back to the 2015 postseason. They also improved to 10-3 in Game 5 over the same period.
Golden State is 15-7 vs. Houston in the postseason dating back to 2015. Including thist series, the Warriors and Rockets have faced each other in four of the last five postseasons.
Golden State improved to 8-2 all-time in the postseason when Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson each score 20-or-more points in the same game
Kevin Durant (36.0) and James Harden (35.8) both averaged more than 35 points through the first four games of the series. It’s the first time in NBA history that opposing players have averaged 35+ in the first four games of a playoff series.