Basketball

Warriors face Rockets' challenge for Finals spot

Curry and Co, peaking at the right time, will meet the top seeds next week

Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors will face the Houston Rockets for a place in the NBA Finals after the Western Conference heavyweights wrapped up series wins yesterday morning (Singapore time).

Curry led the scoring for the reigning NBA champion Warriors in a 113-104 victory over the New Orleans Pelicans in Oakland, sealing the best-of-seven series 4-1.

The Warriors will now travel to top-seeded Houston for Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals on Tuesday morning (Singapore time).

The Rockets had earlier booked their place in the conference finals with a 112-102 win over the Utah Jazz to take the series 4-1.

While Houston will have home-court advantage after finishing the regular season on top of the Western Conference, the Warriors once again showed signs they are peaking at the right time.

The fit-again Curry played 37 minutes, and was heavily involved in a devastating burst of scoring in the third quarter which ultimately took the game away from the Pelicans.

If he can play 37 minutes in a play-off game then I think he’s okay. It feels like he’s back now.Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr on his star point-guard Stephen Curry’s fitness

Curry finished with 28 points, seven rebounds and eight assists while Kevin Durant had 24 points and Klay Thompson added 23 points.

Draymond Green, meanwhile, produced another commanding all-round performance, with 19 points, 14 rebounds and nine assists.

After being restricted to a three-point lead at half-time, the Warriors outscored the Pelicans by 36-19 in the third quarter, giving them a 20-point cushion heading into the fourth.

There was a late scare for Steve Kerr's side, however, as the Pelicans staged a late rally, stitching together an 18-2 spurt to close within seven points at 107-100 with 1:43 left.

But Green came up with two crucial late scores to see the Warriors home safely.

"We thought we had the game in hand," Kerr said. "We got a little tired and a little rattled and we didn't finish the game we wanted to."

"But our guys have reached the conference finals four years in a row now so they should be really proud of themselves."

Kerr, meanwhile, was happy with the form of Curry, who looks to be back to full fitness following his knee injury lay-off.

"If he can play 37 minutes in a play-off game then I think he's okay," Kerr said.

"It feels like he's back now."

Meanwhile in Texas, Chris Paul scored 41 points as Houston made sure of their place in the conference finals.

Paul's haul included 20 points in the fourth quarter. The 33-year-old's game-winning display left him contemplating his first career appearance in a Western Conference Finals.

Rockets star James Harden, who was kept quiet with a relatively modest haul of 18 points, paid tribute to Paul's performance.

UNBELIEVABLE

"He was unbelievable," Harden said. "He went out there and took over the game. He put us all on his back in that fourth quarter and said: 'Listen - I got this'. That's a big-time performance.

"He had a look in his eyes. And if he has that look in his eyes, he's a problem."

Paul meanwhile played down his personal contribution to the win, even though his 41 points marked a career high in a play-off game.

"It's just fun," Paul said.

"It's not about points, it's about the process."

Paul had finally led Houston to safety in the fourth quarter, reeling off four three-pointers in a row before a brilliant pull-up jumper put Houston 107-98 ahead with just under two minutes to play. - AFP

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