War­riors aware Har­den is wait­ing

Baltimore Sun Sunday - - SCOREBOARD -

LOS AN­GE­LES — Af­ter out­last­ing the no-name Clip­pers in six games, the War­riors have a su­per­star on their hands next.

James Har­den and the Rock­ets are on their way for a re­match of last year’s Western Con­fer­ence fi­nals. That’s when the Rock­ets let a 3-2 lead slip away and saw the War­riors go on to win their sec­ond straight NBA cham­pi­onship.

This time the teams meet in the West semi­fi­nals begin­ning Sun­day in Oak­land.

“We know them well,” War­riors coach Steve Kerr said Fri­day night af­ter his team fin­ished off the Clip­pers with a 129-110 vic­tory to win the best-of-seven se­ries 4-2. “They’re go­ing to come af­ter you and pick-and-roll. We know they’re al­ready in the Bay wait­ing for us, so it will be a quick turn­around.”

An­tic­i­pat­ing a War­riors’ close­out, the Rock­ets flew to North­ern Cal­i­for­nia on Fri­day to be ready for the se­ries opener. They’ve been rest­ing since Wed­nes­day, when they de­feated the Utah Jazz 4-1.

The War­riors were stretched to six games for the first time in the open­ing round in Kerr’s five sea­sons.

“One of the things that can hap­pen dur­ing the play­offs is you can sharpen your game against an op­po­nent that forces you to do so,” Kerr said. “We had leads in some games that we lost. Every time we thought, all right, we’ve got this, we didn’t have it.”

Kevin Du­rant had a state­ment game for the War­riors, scor­ing 38 of his play­off ca­reer-high 50 points in the first half at Sta­ples Cen­ter. He was 15 of 26 from the floor, made 14 of 15 free throws and hit six 3-point­ers.

Du­rant was com­ing off a 45-point per­for­mance in a los­ing ef­fort in Game 5.

“No mat­ter what any­body does, he can get a good shot,” Kerr said.

Har­den av­er­aged 27.8 points in the first round against the Jazz, but he strug­gled at times to get go­ing of­fen­sively.

“He can score in a va­ri­ety of ways, so we have to be locked in from the begin­ning,” Du­rant said. “You can’t fully stop a guy like that; you’ve got to be ready to play him tough all game.”

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