HOUSTON — Stephen Curry and Golden State turned all those Houston bricks into a road back to the NBA Finals.
Needing not only all their firepower but also 27 straight misses by the Rockets during an epic cold streak from 3-point range, the Warriors rallied to keep alive their hopes for a repeat.
Kevin Durant scored 34 points, Curry sparked another third-quarter turnaround, and the Warriors earned a fourth straight trip to the NBA Finals by beating the Rockets 101-92 in Game 7 of the Western Conference finals on Monday night.
The defending champions trailed by as many as 15 in the first half after falling behind 17 in Game 6.
“We know we can make an 11-point lead evaporate with two minutes of good basketball,” Klay Thompson said.
Curry, who finished with 27 points, scored 14 of Golden State’s 33 points in the third quarter as Houston’s shooting didn’t just go cold, it froze. The Rockets missed all 14 3-point attempts in that quarter as part of a 1-for-21 second half from long range.
Curry said someone asked him after the victory if it’s still special to get to the finals when it’s the fourth time in a row.
“Yes,” he said, “because it’s really hard.”
The Warriors will host LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 1 on Thursday night in the fourth straight matchup between the teams.
James Harden had 32 points as the top-seeded Rockets’ bid to return to the finals for the first time since 1995 fell short without Chris Paul, who was nursing a hamstring injury.
“We just didn’t have that extra juice that we needed,” Harden said.
The Rockets fell apart in the second half again after doing so in Game 6. The Warriors outscored Houston 122-63 in the second half of the final two games.
“It’s amazing how long the NBA game is,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “Forty-eight minutes, it lasts a long time and there’s so many opportunities to get yourself going as a team. And with our team, there’s just so much firepower that at some point, we’re going to get going.”
The Rockets finished 7 of 44 on 3-pointers, with Trevor Ariza missing all nine of his attempts, Eric Gordon going 2 for 12 and Harden making just 2 of 13.
Houston was behind by 13 after a 3 by Curry and had missed 27 straight 3-pointers when P.J. Tucker hit one from the corner to cut the lead to 89-79 midway through the quarter.
It was their first 3-pointer since one by Gordon with about 6 1/2 minutes left in the second quarter that put the Rockets up 42-28 during a woeful Warriors start.
“We were lucky to escape out of here,” Kerr said.
Tucker’s 3 was the first of seven straight points for Houston which cut the lead to 89-83.
But Durant scored six points in a 9-2 spurt after that which left the Warriors 97-85 with about three minutes to go.
Houston finally found a little offence after that, using a 7-2 run to cut it to 99-92, but their rally bid came up short.
Thompson added 19 for Golden State after scoring 35 in the Game 6 win and the Warriors got a fourth straight start from Kevon Looney with Andre Iguodala sitting out again with a bone bruise on his left leg.
After being down by 10 at halftime of Game 6, the Warriors trailed by 11 entering the third quarter on Monday night. Golden State opened the third quarter with a 10-4 run to cut the lead to 58-53 after a 3-pointer by Nick Young with about eight minutes left in the quarter.
Tucker made one of two free throws and the teams exchanged layups before Golden State scored nine straight points, with two 3s from Curry, to take a 64-61 lead.
Harden made two free throws before Curry scored eight points in a row, highlighted by a 3-pointer which bounced high off the rim before falling back in, to make it 72-63 with just over two minutes left in the quarter.
Golden State scored 33 points in the third quarter for the second straight game while Houston managed just 15 points on Monday night after it scored 16 in the third in Game 6.
Warriors: Curry went to the locker room with trainers between the first and second quarters, but returned to the bench with about 10 minutes remaining in the second quarter and soon returned to the game. … Thompson picked up his third foul with about 8 1/2 minutes left in the first quarter and sat out most of the period. … Draymond Green had 10 points, 13 rebounds and five assists.
Rockets: Houston fell to 6-5 all-time in Game 7s and 4-2 at home. … Capela finished with 20 points and 12 rebounds. … Tucker had 14 points and 12 rebounds.
PUSHING EACH OTHER
Green and Durant were barking at each other several times during the game when things weren’t going well for the Warriors.
“I was cussing him out,” Green said. “He was cussing me out when I was wrong. I was cussing at him out when he was wrong. But that’s what we do. I am the guy who calls him out and he is the guy who calls me out. It’s great. You have to have that on your team. To know that you’ve got guys in your corner means a lot.”
The Warriors host Game 1 of the finals on Thursday and Game 2 on Sunday.
Kristie Rieken, The Associated Press