Oakland — The Warriors kept taking Houston's best shots, literally and figuratively.
The Rockets kept playing Rasputin in front of Rev. Jesse Jackson and Kanye West, somehow staying alive against all odds, despite their MVP's historic off-night.
In the end, though, on a crazy night filled with foul trouble, chaos and controversy, only one thing matters: the Warriors are going to the 2015 NBA Finals.
Harrison Barnes scored 24 points (13 in the fourth quarter), Klay Thompson overcame a knee to the head to add 20, and Golden State forced MVP runner-up James Harden into a playoff-record 13 turnovers on 2-of-11 shooting, all culminating in a 104-90 triumph in Game 5 of the Western Conference finals at Oracle Arena.
An hour after the game, Warriors announced that Thompson was not feeling well and “developed concussion-like symptoms” after the game. In the fourth quarter, he was kneed in the head by Houston's flying Trevor Ariza. The team said he would “continued to be evaluated by the team's medical staff tonight.”
Just a few seasons ago, a conference title seemed unimaginable. “Fast forward two years later, and we're four wins away from our goal,” said MVP Stephen Curry, who led Golden State with 26 points, eight rebounds, six assists and five steals two nights after hitting his head in a nasty fall. “It's pretty special, for everyone in the Bay Area.”
The Warriors, seemingly lifted from the raucous gold-clad faithful, physically dominated the so-called bigger team, limiting the Rockets to 35.1-percent shooting (including 5-of-24 from three) while outrebounding Houston, 59-39, and overcoming an early 20-12 deficit that included 21 missed shots in the first quarter.
“Every win was brutally difficult for us,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “I'm reminded of Pat Riley's quote, 'There's winning and there's misery.' Winning feels like a relief most of the time. But to get to the Finals for the first time in 40 years, it's more than relief. It's joy.”
Andrew Bogut was held scoreless but grabbed 14 rebounds, Draymond Green added nine points and 13 boards, and Festus Ezeli came off the bench with 12 points and nine rebounds in 28 huge minutes off the bench.
Kerr, meanwhile, saved his biggest praise for Andre Iguodala, who helped flummox Harden — The Beard — to 14 points and zero second-half field goals, with the coach calling the 30-minute defensive performance perhaps “the greatest six point game I've seen in my life.”
And yet, despite holding Houston to just four field goals in the third quarter (with three from Jason Terry), the Rockets hung around, thanks to six players scoring in double figures. Dwight Howard had 18 points and 16 rebounds.
With a 78-70 lead and 9:30 to play, the Splash Brothers were dealt a serious head injury scare by Ariza for the second time in as many games, this time to Thompson. After Thompson's pump fake, Ariza's right knee connected violently with the 6-foot-7 Golden State gunner's right temple. Thompson exited to the locker room to received stitches in his ear, but did eventually return to the bench.
From there, Barnes took off, quelling any nervousness by rattling home nine straight points, including an emphatic dunk to make it 87-72. Ezeli followed with his own flush on the next possession and the rout was on, 89-74 with 5:59 left.
“It's special,” Barnes said. “To be able to close it out here, in front of these fans, it was a perfect night for us.”