OAKLAND -– Their individual numbers were very similar. Each made big plays when his team was in need. And each walked off the floor with a few regrets.
But because the Warriors won Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals Thursday night, Stephen Curry won his duel with James Harden.
And, yes, it was quite the individual duel between the guards who finished one-two in the MVP voting that went to Curry –- even if the was very little direct competition between them in a 99-98 Warriors win at Oracle Arena.
Curry generally defended Houston’s point guard, whether it was Jason Terry or Pablo Prigioni. Terry or Prigioni generally defended Curry, with occasional resistance by 6-foot-9 forward Terrence Jones.
Harden spent most of the game matched up with Klay Thompson.
No matter. Each team’s best player did a lot of shining before this one was decided. And it was a duel, as even Curry conceded.
“A little bit, because there was obviously back and forth,” he said. “Nobody was getting a stop and it was kind of high-octane offense.”
Curry finished with a team-high 33 points on 13-of-21 shooting, 5-of-11 from beyond the arc. He added six assists, three rebounds and a steal –- but committed six turnovers in 37 minutes.
Harden finished with a game-high 38 points on 13-of-21 shooting, 3-of-6 from deep. He added 10 rebounds, nine assists, two steals and a blocked shot, while committing two turnovers in 41 minutes.
“They’ve exceeded expectations,” Warriors guard Shaun Livingston said.
Curry had a 15-point first quarter, giving the Warriors a 36-28 lead. Harden responded with a 12-point second quarter and the game was tied at the half. Curry had 10 in third quarter, and Harden had 12 in the fourth.
Harden had the higher total score, but Curry delivered most of the punches that knocked out the Rockets.
Though it was a great show for those attending the sold-out game, Warriors coach Steve Kerr couldn’t enjoy the battle of the stars. Too much is at stake right now.
“I’ll look at that on tape and maybe in a few months I’ll look back and enjoy the duel,” he said. “But right now it’s just possession by possession, trying to get it done.”