OAKLAND (AP) — Klay Thompson knew Golden State had to come together, that every player needed to raise his game with Stephen Curry sidelined.
“None of us can do it alone,” Thompson insisted hours earlier.
He sure got things started, scoring 27 points with seven 3-pointers as the Warriors rolled into the second round of the playoffs without their injured superstar, thoroughly embarrassing the Houston Rockets 114-81 on Wednesday night in Game 5.
“Urgency of the game and we did not want to go back to Houston — it’s a long flight,” Thompson said of his extra motivation.
Draymond Green added 15 points, nine rebounds and eight assists for the Warriors, who will face the winner of the Clippers-Trail Blazers series. Portland leads 3-2.
“Everybody, they think Steph goes down and the entire series changes. But we thought otherwise,” Green said.
Without the MVP, Curry’s fellow Splash Brother set the tone from the opening tip. Thompson became the first player in NBA history to make at least seven 3s in consecutive playoff games, while Shaun Livingston scored 16 points for his third double-digit performance in three games while starting in Curry’s place this series.
“We’re blessed, we are really lucky. You lose your point guard, you lose the MVP, and to be able to throw Shaun Livingston out there, he’s a fantastic basketball player, a great teammate,” coach Steve Kerr said.
Curry, in a brown sport coat on the bench while nursing his sprained right knee, emphatically bobbed his head, clapped and bowed to Thompson during starter introductions. He even worked the officials during a timeout, and gestured with hand signals to celebrate big plays.
James Harden scored 25 of Houston’s 37 first-half points on the way to 35 points, but the Rockets had no chance with a one-man show against the deep defending champions.
So much for Jason Terry’s guarantee there would be a Game 6 back in Houston.
“The season, from the beginning, wasn’t going our way. Just had too many distractions,” Harden said. “It’s just been like a bumpy road this entire season.”
Thompson hit a way-back, Curry-like 3 from 31 feet at the top of the arc with 5:37 left in the third. He shot 7 of 11 from long range, 10 for 14 overall.
Curry could only grin, cheer and enjoy every second of seeing his team do so well without him.
“He was just joking around and having a lot of fun. It was a game with a lot of joy,” Kerr said. “Steph was having a great time.”
The NBA’s leading scorer is sidelined for at least two weeks with a sprained MCL that happened when he slipped awkwardly on the final play of the first half of Sunday’s Game 4 and his legs split apart.
A day after Kerr was voted NBA Coach of the Year, his team took the first step toward a repeat title by following up its record 73-win season by so confidently handling Houston.
Thompson started things off with a quick 3-pointer, igniting the yellow-clad, “Strength in Numbers” sellout crowd at Oracle Arena. Green also hit from long range and Houston called a quick timeout.
Harden scored 14 early points on 6-of-7 shooting, but the rest of the Rockets were 0 for 16 before Patrick Beverley’s follow shot with 11:26 left in the second quarter following Michael Beasley’s shanked alley-oop dunk try.
From the moment Curry went down, the Warriors took their game up a notch with a spectacular second half in Game 4, finishing the 121-94 victory with a playoff-record 21 3-pointers and 38 assists on 46 field goals.
Terry guaranteed a Game 5 win, telling the Houston Chronicle, “That’s going to be a long flight for them to come back to Houston.” Amused, Golden State just shrugged it off.
Dwight Howard capped his awful series with eight points on 3-for-13 shooting and 21 rebounds, remaining on the floor long after the rest of the starters were finished.
“He wanted to stay, he wanted to finish,” interim Rockets coach J.B. Bickerstaff said. “He didn’t want to quit. He didn’t want to lay down and bail out of the fight. ... That’s the image he wanted to leave people with.”
ONE YEAR LATER
This game was played 11 months to the day after the teams met in Game 5 of the Western Conference finals and Golden State won 104-90 to reach the NBA Finals for the first time in 40 years on the way to the franchise’s first championship since 1975.
Rockets: Houston has lost 16 of 18 to Golden State. ... Shortly after the double technical, Bickerstaff was whistled for a T. ... Beverley played 25-plus minutes after injuring his right hamstring during Sunday’s Game 4.
Warriors: In the six quarters after Curry went down Sunday, Golden State outscored Houston 179-119. ... The Warriors are 4-2 without Curry this season. ... They have lost only two home games total in the postseason dating to the start of last year’s run.