OAKLAND – In their first Western Conference Finals appearance since 1976, the Warriors did what they usually do when things turned tight this season.
They locked down on defense and leaned on MVP Stephen Curry.
Curry scored 34 points and the Warriors held the Rockets to 42.2 percent shooting over the final three quarters to post a 110-106 victory in Game 1 Tuesday night before a roaring sellout crowd at Oracle Arena.
The Rockets came out sizzling early, leading by as much as 16 in the first half, before the Warriors cranked up the defense. Houston made 21 of its first 33 shots but only 19 of its last 53 (35.8 percent) over the final two-plus quarters.
Four other Warriors scored in double figures, as Shaun Livingston scored 18 points, Klay Thompson had 15, Harrison Barnes put in 14 and Draymond Green finished with 13.
Houston center Dwight Howard bruised his knee in the first quarter and tried to play through it before giving up with 11:09 left in the game. He finished with 7 points and 13 rebounds.
James Harden led Houston with 28 points, including 21 in the second half.
Curry and Livingston share the honors, with Green also getting a piece of the action.
Curry scored 11 points in the first quarter to keep the Warriors from falling too far behind and put in 11 more in the fourth to keep the Rockets at bay. He finished with six rebounds and five assists.
Livingston was solid the entire game but marvelous in the second quarter, when he scored 14 points on 5-of-5 shooting from the floor and 4-of-4 from the line. His 16-point first half represents a career-high for a half.
Green rang up his eighth double-double of the playoffs and came within two assists of getting a triple-double. He added a team-high 12 rebounds and eight assists to his scoring total.
With the Rockets rolling and up 49-33 with 7:05 left in the second quarter, the Warriors stormed back with a 25-6 run to take a 58-55 lead at the half.
What happened? With Andrew Bogut in foul trouble and Festus Ezeli ineffective, coach Steve Kerr unleashed a small lineup featuring Green at center, Barnes at forward and Curry, Thompson and Livingston at the guards.
Defensive intensity went up and the pace went into overdrive. The Rockets committed six turnovers and shot 20 percent (2 of 10) over the final seven minutes of the half.
Though the Rockets came back to tie the game, they never again held a lead.
Warriors: F Marreese Speights (strained right calf) and C Ognjen Kuzmic (sprained left ankle) were listed as out and placed on the inactive list.
Rockets: F Donatas Motiejunas (back surgery) and G Patrick Beverley (left wrist surgery) were listed as out and place on the inactive list.
The teams reconvene Thursday (6 p.m. PDT) at Oracle Arena for Game 2.