(Reuters) Eric Gordon sank two free throws with 2.4 seconds left, and the Houston Rockets eked out a 98-94 victory over the visiting Golden State Warriors in Game 5 of the Western Conference finals on Thursday at Toyota Center.
The Rockets will take a 3-2 series lead back to Oakland, Calif., with a chance to close out the defending NBA champions today.
With the Rockets clinging to a two-point lead, Gordon sealed the victory at the foul line. The Warriors had an opportunity to pull even on their previous possession, but Draymond Green lost the basketball attempting a drive to the basket. Gordon recovered the loose ball.
Houston won Game 5 despite James Harden missing all 11 of his 3-point attempts while finishing with 19 points on 5-of-21 shooting. He also committed six turnovers.
The Rockets’ other leader, Chris Paul, was on the bench for the final 22.4 seconds due to a right hamstring injury. Paul scored 18 points on 6-of-12 shooting in the second half after scoring two points and missing all seven of his field-goal attempts before halftime.
Houston coach Mike D’Antoni told reporters postgame that Paul is “worried” about his status.
D’Antoni said, “He’ll be evaluated tomorrow. They’ll do whatever they can do. If he’s there (for Game 6), great. If he isn’t, we have enough guys. … We’ll be all right.”
Gordon tallied a team-high 24 points off the bench. He sank a big basket down the stretch for the second game in a row.
“I remember the last game, I set a screen for CP and he hits me and I’m wide open for a 3, and James, same thing tonight. Penetrates, kind of sag off, and he hits me for a 3,” Gordon said. “It’s more about chemistry and looking for me, and I’ve got to be prepared to knock down the shot.” Kevin Durant paced the Warriors with 29 points while Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson combined for 45 points on 16-of-31 shooting. However, Curry missed a runner off the glass with Golden State trailing by one point down the stretch. Green had 12 points, 15 rebounds and six turnovers.
Golden State coach Steve Kerr said of the late play that resulted in a Green giveaway, “I think Draymond saw an open lane to the basket, but he knew the time was winding down a little bit. I think Draymond probably thought he could get to the rim and dunk it; I’ll have to see the replay.
“I think Klay may have been in the far right corner so we had the floor spread. I thought, without having seen it, Draymond rushed it a little bit. The play was unfolding nicely, it just didn’t turn out obviously.”
Paul hit his first basket at the 9:43 mark of the second half, a 3-pointer that lifted Houston to a 52-49 lead. That served to ignite him.
The Rockets benefitted greatly from the Warriors’ lackadaisical ball security in the first half, recording nine points off eight Golden State turnovers to tread water despite their horrid shooting. Houston closed the half 6 of 24 from behind the arc with Harden and Paul misfiring on all 10 of their 3-point attempts while shooting 4 of 20 overall prior to the intermission.
Golden State closed the second quarter with an 8-0 spurt and pulled even at the break after Durant kept them afloat with 18 first-half points.
After combining for zero points on 0-of-4 shooting in the first quarter, Curry and Thompson started building momentum in the second and closed the half with 18 combined points. When Thompson scored through a foul on the first possession of the second half, the Warriors captured their first lead of the game at 47-45.
Each team wound up with as many turnovers as assists. The Warriors had 18 of each, the Rockets 12 of each.
Houston won despite being outshot from the floor 44.4 percent to 37.2 percent.
Now the Warriors head home, looking to send the series back to Houston for Game 7 on Monday.
“We know what we’re capable of, we know that we can win two games,” Green said. “Obviously, a sense that you’ve been there before is always a good feeling. You know what it takes. And then with what we’ve put out there on the floor the last two games, it could have easily been two wins. So we understand that and we know the things that we can improve on, and we’ll improve on those things.”