OAKLAND — As Stephen Curry emphatically waved his arms to ignite the crowd and coached from the bench when he could do little else, Klay Thompson and the Golden State Warriors’ supporting cast picked up the slack for their absent NBA MVP to hold off the Houston Rockets 115-106 on Monday night and take a 2-0 lead in their playoff series.
Thompson scored 34 points and dished out five assists for the defending champions, playing without Curry because of an injured right ankle. Curry cut short his pregame warmup routine after appearing to be in discomfort as he was shooting while putting little pressure on the tender ankle.
Andre Iguodala, last year’s Finals MVP, added 18 points with four 3-pointers and Draymond Green had 12 points, 14 rebounds and eight assists.
Now, Curry has until Thursday’s Game 3 in Houston to get healthy.
James Harden had 28 points and 11 assists to lead the Rockets, losers of six straight and 14 of 15 to Golden State. He made 13 of 15 free throws after not attempting one in the opener.
Big man Marreese Speights hit a key momentum 3-pointer from the baseline with 8.2 seconds remaining in the third quarter to make it 86-79, and the deep, versatile Warriors showed they can win without Curry on the playoff stage just as everybody on the roster believed.
Golden State did it on New Year’s Eve on Houston’s home court and did it again Monday at rockin’ Oracle Arena.
Shaun Livingston, who left Sunday’s practice with an illness, had 16 points and six assists playing in Curry’s place.
After a 26-point victory in Game 1, the Warriors had to work a little harder in Game 2.
Dwight Howard’s dunk of an alley-oop pass with 6:54 left in the third pulled the Rockets within 71-67, but Golden State kept answering with big baskets.
Golden State coach Steve Kerr called for better ball movement, hard cuts and intensity on defense in Curry’s absence. For much of the game, the Warriors did those things well.
“There’s a smaller margin for error,” Kerr said of a lineup minus Curry.
Kerr looked at more film from that Dec. 31 game in Houston the past couple of days after already having watched it before Curry’s latest injury.
Harden went without a free throw attempt Saturday for the first time in 30 playoff games with the Rockets. Then on three occasions in the first half, Harden drew a foul beyond the 3-point line and sent the fans into fits. He missed 7 of 8 3-point tries.
But it was Thompson’s three free throws after interim Rockets coach J.B. Bickerstaff’s technical with 7:16 left that helped seal this one. Livingston scored the next time down for a 99-86 lead.
Curry didn’t take part in the morning shootaround Monday or practice Sunday after getting hurt late in the first half of his team’s Game 1 win Saturday.
He received treatment Sunday and Monday. He took the court some 90 minutes before tipoff and first went through his normal dribbling session before he started shooting.
At one point, Curry lined up to try a long jumper from the right wing but didn’t release the ball and hopped in apparent pain before throwing the ball in the air, clearly frustrated. He left the court moments later.
Rockets: Houston is 0-5 all-time in the postseason on Golden State’s home court and 1-6 overall in playoffs. … Harden went to the free throw line for three attempts — his first of the series — at the 6:41 mark of the first, then tried to shoot again under pressure from long range midway through the second quarter to draw a foul on Ian Clark.
Warriors: Iguodala’s four 3s matched his most in the playoffs with Golden State. … Thompson hit a 3 in his 31st straight playoff game. He has made 21 of 22 free throws in the series, 15 for 16 on Monday. … Livingston notched his 11th career postseason start and first with the Warriors. … Golden State had 13 turnovers after committing 18 in Game 1, including 11 in the third quarter.