HOUSTON — Kevin Durant scored 37 points and Klay Thompson added 28 to lead Golden State to a 119-106 win in the long-awaited showdown with the Houston Rockets in Game 1 of the Western Conference finals on Monday night.
Starting a playoff series on the road for the first time since 2014, the Warriors trailed by as many as 9 early, but had evened it up by halftime and used a big run at the beginning of the fourth quarter to pull away.
“We’re in the Western Conference Finals they are going to come out with a lot of energy,” Durant said. “We’re going to take that first punch and keep punching.”
Game 2 is Wednesday night in Houston.
Eric Gordon opened the final period with a 3-pointer to get the top-seeded Rockets within 4, but Thompson scored the first eight points of a 13-4 run to make it 100-87 with about eight minutes left.
Houston used a 9-3 spurt, where James Harden scored five, to cut the lead to 103-96 with less than five minutes to go. But Thompson struck again, hitting a wide open 3 to leave the Warriors ahead by 10 with four minutes left.
Harden scored 41 to lead the Rockets, who lost at home for the second time this postseason.
“You’re not going to come in and just knock them out,” Houston coach Mike D’Antoni said. “There were too many times where we had mental lapses. We didn’t switch properly, turned the ball over and missed too many layups. We need to do a better job of staying up mentally.”
Steph Curry added 18 for the Warriors, who are in the conference finals for a franchise-record fourth straight time. It’s Houston’s first trip since 2015 when Golden State won the series in five games.
The Warriors, who are the second seed in the West, opened a playoff series away from Oracle Arena for the first time since 2014 when they lost to the Los Angeles Clippers 4-3 in the opening round.
Houston struggled to slow down Durant all night, and things got even worse when Trevor Ariza picked up his fifth foul with about 10 minutes left in the third with Golden State up by 3. Durant made two baskets for the Warriors around one by Chris Paul that left the Warriors up 73-68 a couple of minutes later.
“He’s one of the best scorers ever,” D’Antoni said of Durant. “I thought he was extremely good. But we can withstand that. We can’t withstand turning the ball over and giving up so many wide open 3s.”
Gordon added a layup for Houston after that, but Golden State scored the next six points, with a 3-pointer from Thompson, to make it 79-70 with about 4 1/2 minutes left in the third.
Houston ended a scoring drought of more than two minutes with a dunk by Harden seconds later and the Warriors followed with another run, scoring six straight points to extend it to 85-72 with just more than two minutes left in the third.
The Rockets rediscovered their offense after that, scoring the next eight points, powered by 3s from Gordon and Gerald Green, to get within 85-80 with about a minute left in the quarter.
Durant added two free throws to close out the quarter and leave the Warriors up 87-80 entering the fourth.
“Houston, they never stop,” Durant said. “They are always in the game with 3-point shots. We try to get good shots every time down and defend on the other end.”