LOS ANGELES, USA (2nd UPDATE) – Stephen Curry scored 36 points to lead the Golden State Warriors to a 96-88 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder on Monday, May 30 (Tuesday morning, May 31 in Manila) and into an NBA title rematch with the Cleveland Cavaliers.
The Warriors, trying to cap a sensational season that included a record 73 regular-season victories with a second straight title, sealed the 4-3 series victory in the Western Conference finals on their home floor in Oakland, California – clawing back after trailing 3-1 in the series.
The Warriors, who became the 10th team to rally from a 3-1 deficit to win a playoff series, host LeBron James and the Cavaliers in game one of the finals on Thursday.
“You’ve got to be appreciative of this accomplishment – and look forward to getting four more wins,” Curry said.
The Cavaliers won the Eastern Conference title, defeating the Toronto Raptors in 6 games to book a return trip to the finals, where they will try to avenge their 6-game loss to the Warriors in last year’s championship series.
The Warriors will be trying to become the league’s first repeat winners since the Miami Heat – then featuring James – in 2012 and 2013.
Golden State had to dig deep to get the chance. After twice fending off elimination the Warriors trailed by as many as 13 in the first half on Monday and by 8 early in the third quarter.
Curry, who earned Most Valuable Player honors for the second straight season, hit 5 of the Warriors’ 10 second-half 3-pointers as the reigning champions rallied again to oust the third-seeded Thunder.
“I knew we were ready for the moment,” Curry said. “We were a mature basketball team that tried our best not to listen to the noise when we were down 3-1. … In that locker room, the talk was positive.”
Back-to-back 3-pointers by Klay Thompson and Draymond Green gave the Warriors an 88-77 lead with 4:44 to play.
The Thunder wouldn’t go quietly, with a scoring drive from Russell Westbrook and 7 straight points from Kevin Durant pulling the Thunder within 90-86 with 1:40 remaining.
“We survived by the skin of our teeth,” Golden State coach Steve Kerr said. “We were able to pull it out, and we’re moving on.”
Curry, fouled on a 3-point attempt, made all 3 free-throws, then produced a 3-pointer that put the Warriors up by 10 with 26.8 seconds to play.
Thompson’s 6 3-pointers made up most of his 21 points. Green finished with 11 points and a team-high 9 rebounds for Golden State.
Durant led the Thunder with 27 points and pulled down 7 rebounds.
Westbrook had 19 points and 13 assists, but connected on just 7 of 21 shots from the field.
Overall the Thunder shot just 38.2 percent from the field – which helped doomed their bid to become the first team in NBA history to beat two 65-win teams in the same post-season.
The Thunder had eliminated Western Conference second seeds San Antonio in the second round. – Rappler.com
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