Golden State Warriors' title defence may now hobble along with their leader Kevin Durant who suffered a calf injury on Wednesday that makes him doubtful for the playoffs. So this becomes a throwback challenge for the Warriors, to see if they can muster the same amount of production at both ends as they did before Durant arrived, the results that earned them two trips to the NBA Finals, one championship and a record-setting 73-win season. Spurs forward Rudy Gay, however, had a hunch right away that the injury was to the calf and not his Achilles.
Durant had scored 22 points in 32 minutes prior to his injury.
Both teams had been running up their stars' minutes since Game 1, and the series seemed like it would be decided by who broke first.
Harden carried the Rockets back from a 14-point halftime deficit with a dominant third quarter. Golden State is a minus-260 favorite to advance past Houston, which is the exact same series price prior to winning Game 5 and losing Durant.
The Warriors pulled it off without Durant, whose 35.4 playoff scoring average was best in the National Basketball Association coming into the game.
The Rockets out-rebounded the Warriors 55-35 in their Game 3 win, and then 50-43 on Monday in Game 4 - getting 20 from Clint Capela in the two victories. The team's diagnosis came early in the fourth quarter.
Even coach Steve Kerr initially feared Durant might have injured his Achilles.
But the Rockets wasted an opportunity in Game 5. The Warriors flew home from Houston later Tuesday so players could receive treatment and have some recovery time, and then it was back on the airplane Thursday.