Golden State Warriors outlasted the Houston Rockets 104-100 in Game 1 of the Western Conference semi-finals in Oakland.
Kevin Durant scored nine of his team-high 35 points in the final 5:35 and Stephen Curry buried a back-breaking three-pointer with 25.9 in seconds remaining on Sunday.
In a tight game that featured poor three-point shooting and turnovers, the Warriors found themselves in an 89-89 tie with six minutes remaining before Durant took charge.
His two free throws with 5:35 left gave Golden State the lead for good, and his three subsequent free throws and two field goals seemingly put the Warriors in command at 100-95 with just 1:26 to go.
But a three-point play by James Harden got Houston back within two, before Curry countered with his three-pointer that proved to be decisive.
A dunk by Harden with 21.3 seconds to go kept the Rockets alive, and when Chris Paul stole the ball from Durant, Houston had a chance at a tie.
But Paul was pressured into an awkward pass and Eric Gordon stepped out of bounds while retrieving it, allowing the Warriors to hold on.
Curry made the foul shot to complete the scoring.
While Durant shot 12-for-15 from the line during his 35-point outing for Golden State, which won despite committing 20 turnovers.
However Curry (18 points), Andre Iguodala (14), Draymond Green (14) and Klay Thompson (13) also scored in double figures for the Warriors, who are attempting to win a third consecutive NBA title.
Green also contributed nine rebounds and nine assists to the win.
Harden matched Durant’s 35-point total, but shot just 4 of 16 on three-pointers and was 9-of-28 overall. He made 13 of his 14 free throws.
Eric Gordon had 27 points and Paul 17 for the Rockets, who are playing the Warriors in the playoffs for the fourth time in the last five seasons.
The Rockets shot just 29.8 percent on three-pointers, making 14-of-47.
Game 2 takes place in Oakland in the early hours of Wednesday morning (3:30am) live on Sky Sports Arena.
By Olukayode Oniwinde