WASHINGTON (AFP) – Kevin Durant scored 35 points to lead the defending champion Golden State Warriors over Houston, 104-100, Sunday while Boston ripped Milwaukee in the openers of their NBA second-round playoff matchups.
Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, each playing despite right ankle injuries, scored 18 and 13 points, respectively, while Andre Iguodala and Draymond Green each added 14 as the Warriors jumped ahead in the best-of-seven Western Conference playoff series.
James Harden led Houston with 35 points while Eric Gordon added 27 and Chris Paul contributed 17 in a losing cause, the Rockets hitting only 41.9 percent from the floor.
“We just made them shoot tough shots,” Durant said. “I think our defense won this game.”
At Milwaukee, Kyrie Irving and Al Horford sparked the Boston Celtics to a 112-90 victory. Irving had game highs of 26 points and 11 assists while Horford scored 20 points, grabbed 11 rebounds and blocked three shots.
The Warriors had lost their two prior playoff home games to the Los Angeles Clippers before escaping the first round, but hung on down the stretch to halt that unwanted streak.
Curry sank a 3-pointer to give the Warriors a five-point lead with 25 seconds remaining, but Harden answered with a dunk with lift the Rockets within 103-100 with 21 seconds remaining.
Houston forced a turnover but Harden missed a 3-pointer and Paul got the rebound but then made a turnover and was ejected after a technical foul with four seconds remaining, Curry sinking a free throw to create the final victory margin.
HORFORD QUIETS GIANNIS
Boston’s Horford led a solid Celtics defensive effort that shut down Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo.
“We came out and made a statement,” Irving said. “We guarded Giannis really tough. We stayed very physical with him. He’s so good around the rim, that mid-range area, we had to keep him out of there. I think we did a great job.”
Antetokounmpo led the Bucks with 22 points and grabbed eight rebounds, but much of his production came late when Milwaukee was already in a 20-point hole.
The Celtics, seeded fourth in the Eastern Conference against the club with the NBA’s best record at 60-22, shot 54 percent against the league’s toughest defensive squad.
Boston unleashed a 32-9 run in the third quarter, Horford scoring 11 in the spurt, to seize an 86-65 lead.
While the host Bucks made one unsuccessful run early in the fourth quarter, they never threatened to erase that lead as they had done with a 15-point deficit in the first half.
“Just coming out playing very aggressive, playing poised, understanding they are very tough to beat on their home floor,’’ Irving said when asked about the key to Boston’s success.
“It’s our preparation, our focus and being there for one another. This is the time you show why you go through the ups and downs of the regular season.’’
The Bucks, the NBA’s third-best scoring club, shot only 34.8 percent for the game.
Antetokounmpo went 7-for-21 from the floor but was denied inside position by Boston’s varied defensive schemes.
The Greek star’s teammates could not step up and offset his lost production when asked by the Celtics, who dropped two of three regular-season meetings with Milwaukee.