NBA play­offs

Rock­ets even series at 1-1

The Maui News - - FRONT PAGE - By KRISTIE RIEKEN

HOUS­TON — The Hous­ton Rock­ets were the best team in the NBA in the reg­u­lar sea­son.

They played like it Wed­nes­day, us­ing a bal­anced scor­ing at­tack to rout the Golden State War­riors 127105 and even the West­ern Con­fer­ence fi­nals at one game apiece.

James Har­den and Eric Gor­don each scored 27 points on a night Hous­ton had five play­ers score 16 points or more.

“We can beat any­body, any­where at any time play­ing the way we play,” coach Mike D’An­toni said.

The Rock­ets didn’t trail af­ter the first quar­ter and led by dou­ble dig­its for most of the night. They head to Oak­land, Calif., for Game 3 on Sun­day feel­ing much bet­ter af­ter re­bound­ing from a de­flat­ing 119-106 loss in the series opener.

P.J. Tucker added a play­off ca­reer-high 22 and Trevor Ariza had 19 as both bounced back af­ter strug­gling in Game 1. Tucker had just one point in that game and Ariza scored eight, but was lim­ited on de­fense af­ter col­lect­ing his fifth foul early in the third quar­ter.

“I never worry about my of­fense ... it’s all on de­fense,” Tucker said. “If we get stops we’ll be able to run. It changes the game and it changes the way we play and we know that.”

Kevin Du­rant had 38 points af­ter scor­ing 37 in the opener, but Stephen Curry and Klay Thomp­son com­bined for just 24 points af­ter the pair went for 46 in Game 1.

Hous­ton wasn’t able to slow down Du­rant, but did a much bet­ter job of lim­it­ing open 3point­ers by Thomp­son and Curry and the two made just 3 of 12 at­tempts.

“They were des­per­ate tonight and played like it, and we weren’t and it showed,” Golden State coach Steve Kerr said.

The War­riors made three free throws to get within 11 early in the fourth quar­ter be­fore the Rock­ets scored the next 11 points, with 3s from Gor­don, Tucker and Har­den to make it 111-89 with about 6 1/2 min­utes to play.

Du­rant made a bas­ket af­ter that, but Hous­ton scored the next eight points to ex­tend the lead to 119-91 with about five min­utes left.

The War­riors got frus­trated in that stretch, with Du­rant get­ting a tech­ni­cal for shov­ing Har­den in the back and Dray­mond Green push­ing Ariza out of bounds sec­onds later. It was then that Kerr sent all of his starters to the bench for good.

Gor­don came off the bench to make six 3-point­ers, Tucker tied a play­off best with five and Har­den added three.

“They were more set­tled tonight and they hit timely shots,” Du­rant said. “The first quar­ter was still the most im­por­tant part of the game. Eric Gor­don hit two big 3s and that kind of set­tled them in. Those shots did it for them.”

Hous­ton avoided los­ing con­sec­u­tive games for the first time this post­sea­son and the War­riors lost in the sec­ond game of a play­off series for the first time since the 2015 NBA Fi­nals, snap­ping a 10-game win­ning streak in such games.

Be­fore the game, Har­den was named a fi­nal­ist for the NBA MVP Award, along with Cleve­land’s LeBron James and New Or­leans’ An­thony Davis. The win­ner will be an­nounced June 25.

AP photo

Hous­ton Rock­ets guard James Har­den drives to the bas­ket past Golden State War­riors de­fend­ers An­dre Iguo­dala, Stephen Curry and Kevin Du­rant dur­ing the first half Wed­nes­day.

AP pho­tos

Golden State’s Stephen Curry walks off the court dur­ing a time out dur­ing the sec­ond half Wed­nes­day.

Eric Gor­don of the Rock­ets drives around the War­riors’ Dray­mond Green dur­ing the sec­ond half.

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