LOS ANGELES: The reigning champion Golden State Warriors shrugged off the injury absence of Stephen Curry to take a 2-0 lead in their playoff series with the Houston Rockets on Monday (Tuesday in Manila).
Curry was left a frustrated spectator at Oakland’s Oracle Arena after failing a pre-game fitness test on a sore ankle shortly before tip-off.
However, the Warriors made light of their talisman’s absence, romping to a 115-106 win that leaves Steve Kerr’s record-breaking side firmly on course to advance.
The Rockets must now win one of their next two games at home, on Thursday and Sunday, to extend the series and avoid a first round exit.
With Curry absent, it was left to Klay Thompson to do the damage, with the guard stepping up to weigh in with 34 points.
Thompson added five assists to go with his points haul while Andre Iguodala chipped in with 18 points. Draymond Green finished with 12 points, 14 rebounds and eight assists.
James Harden was the main attacking conduit for Houston, finishing with 28 points and 11 assists to top the Rockets scoring.
Thompson later paid tribute to the Warriors’ ability to minimize the impact of Curry’s absence.
“We’ve got such great versatility, numbers 1 to 15. This slogan, strength in numbers is something we really do live by,” Thompson told a news conference.
Curry’s replacement, Shaun Livingston, played a key role in a fourth quarter scoring burst, finishing with 16 points and six assists, earning high praise from Thompson.
“You can’t ask for a better back-up point guard in this league,” Thompson said.
Warriors coach Kerr said Curry had taken the decision not to play. His condition would be monitored ahead of game three, but Kerr stressed Golden State would not gamble on their star player’s fitness.
“We never want to put winning ahead of a player’s career and his health. We want to make sure Steph is right, and his foot is fine and healthy,” Kerr said.
Mavs roar back
Elsewhere Monday, Raymond Felton scored 21 points as the Dallas Mavericks staged a late rally to defeat the Oklahoma City Thunder 85-84 on Monday to level their Western Conference playoff series.
The game finished dramatically, with the Thunder just missing by a split second what would have been a winning tip in from Steven Adams after Kevin Durant’s missed layup.
Durant was left ruing a miserable shooting performance, which saw him go seven-for-33 for 21 points.
Durant’s wayward shooting saw him equal the record — held by Michael Jordan — for most missed field-goal attempts in a single game.
“Just a bad shooting night for me. I’m going to have nights like that,” Durant said.
“That’s part of the game. I just have to keep staying confident. And my teammates and my coaches stay confident in me. They told me to keep shooting tonight, so I did. I didn’t make them, so that is a part of it. Get ready for Game 3,” Durant added, referring to Thursday’s third game in Dallas.
Felton, meanwhile, was elated after the Mavs turned around a 38-point thrashing in game one to level the series.
“We showed what type of fight we have,” Felton said.
“It was difficult. You’re missing a lot of key guys. But we fought, kept going, kept grinding, and we got it done.”
“Now we have to go and protect our house. We were able to steal one here, but we can’t let them steal one.”
In Toronto, Jonas Valanciunas scored 23 points as the Raptors beat the Indiana Pacers 98-87 to level their series at 1-1.
Valanciunas also grabbed 15 rebounds while teammate Kyle Lowry chipped in with 18 points and nine assists.
Paul George led the Pacers with 28 points as Indiana reduced an 18-point deficit to just four points in the third quarter before Toronto pulled away.