OAKLAND, Calif. -- Stephen Curry looked exhausted. After running nearly a mile and a half on defense in the Golden State Warriors' 115-86 win over the Houston Rockets in Game 6 of the Western Conference finals Saturday night, there wasn't much left in the tank as he walked to his locker after the game.
Curry grabbed a chocolate protein shake, downed the entire box in one swig, then tossed it left-handed into a nearby trash can. Like the 12 shots he made in this elimination game, it was a perfect swish.
"I learned that from LeBron [James]," Curry joked. "I saw him on the sidelines drinking a bottle of water and he downed it in one sip."
Like James on Friday night, Curry and his fellow Splash Brother Klay Thompson seemed to find extra energy with their teams facing elimination and everyone else exhausted after what has been an epic defensive series for both teams.
Curry poured in 29 points on 12-for-23 shooting, and Thompson reprised his Game 6 heroics from two years ago against Oklahoma City by scoring a game-high 35 points on 13-of-23 shooting. The Warriors rallied back against a Rockets team that led by 17 points at the end of the first quarter.
"Just pure adrenaline right now," Curry said.
Curry ended up running 1.44 miles on defense, a result of the Warriors continuing to switch on almost every pick-and-roll defensively, and the Rockets running through pick-and-rolls until they could get MVP front-runner James Harden matched onto Curry. According to Second Spectrum, that's a quarter mile more than any other Warriors defender and the most he has run in any game all season.
"You can get tired a little bit here and there during the game, but there's no excuse for not appreciating the moment," Curry said. "I looked over at [Rockets forward] Trevor Ariza in the middle of the fourth quarter and we just both said to each other, 'This is fun; this is what you love about NBA basketball.' If you can't push through for 48 minutes in this type of environment, you don't love the game."
Draymond on Game 7: 'This is what you live for'
Draymond Green says in the second half the Warriors flipped a switch and played as if their lives were "on the line."
Indeed, after the Warriors rallied back to win Saturday night, the NBA will be treated to Game 7s in both conference finals for the first time since 1979, when the Washington Bullets beat the San Antonio Spurs and the Seattle SuperSonics beat the Phoenix Suns. This time, James and the Cleveland Cavaliers will play the Boston Celtics on Sunday night, and the Warriors will travel to Houston for Game 7 on Monday night.
"I mean, if you asked us when we were in the Bahamas this summer, this team together [would have] a Game 7 to go to the Finals against the Warriors, we'll take that," said Harden, who finished with 32 points, 9 assists and 7 rebounds in 40 minutes.
"There's no pressure. It's an opportunity, an opportunity that we're all excited to be a part of. Game 7 at our house, that's what we've worked the entire regular season for, to get the home-court advantage."
Klay jokes 'I was born for it'
When asked about his huge Game 6 in the Western Conference finals two years ago, Klay Thompson credits hard work before making a joke.
With point guard Chris Paul sidelined because of a strained right hamstring, Harden had to carry the majority of the load for the Rockets on Saturday night. It probably will be the same Monday night, as Paul's injury is believed to be serious enough to either keep him out of the game altogether, or severely limited.
The Rockets had been 15-9 in games in which Paul didn't play, but that was in the regular season. In the playoffs, particularly in Games 4 and 5, the future Hall of Famer has basically willed the Rockets to wins with savvy playmaking, impossible shot-making and stout defense. Without him Saturday, Houston had to play reserve Gerald Green 26 minutes, and super sub Eric Gordon had to start and play 34 minutes. Both showed signs of fatigue, with Gordon uncharacteristically missing 3 of 4 free throws in the third quarter and missing 3 of 4 field goals in the second half. Gordon made 6 of 8 field goals and all four of his 3-point attempts in a 16-point first half.
Indeed, the whole Rockets team seemed to slow down in the second half. After scoring 19 fast-break points in the first quarter and 21 for the first half -- Houston's highest total in any game of the playoffs -- the Rockets managed only three fast-break points in the second half.
Some of that was fatigue, yes. Some of that was the Warriors' defense, which made a point of stopping the transition game and forcing the ball out of Harden's hands when he tried to drive into the paint.
As he has been since Andre Iguodala was lost to a leg injury after Game 3, Thompson was the primary defender on Harden. Curry said he thought the defensive challenge was what got his fellow Splash Brother going Saturday.
"I think he got most of his confidence on the defensive end, cause he played amazing," Curry said. "Just trying to get into James and make it tough on him, make or miss, he can live with his effort."
Thompson's game Saturday night was immediately compared to his 41-point performance to save the Warriors in Game 6 of the conference finals against Oklahoma City two years ago. It was similar in both the level of desperation the Warriors faced when he started rolling and the stakes of the game. Two years ago, the Warriors trailed for 44 minutes of the game and were down 94-87 with 5:48 left. If they'd lost, the Thunder would've advanced to the Finals and Kevin Durant might still be in Oklahoma City.
Instead, Thompson hit 11 3-pointers in a performance so epic, Warriors owner Joe Lacob literally dropped to his knees and bowed at Thompson's feet.
This time, Thompson got it rolling after the Rockets went up by 17 in the first half. He finished with nine 3-pointers and 35 points, 6 rebounds and a playoff-career-high 4 steals, and he held Harden to 10 points in the second half.
Lacob didn't drop to his knees this time, but Warriors general manager Bob Myers did have a conversation with Thompson's agent after the game, reminiscent of the famous scene in "Jerry Maguire," when Cuba Gooding's character has the game of his life and it's clear the Arizona Cardinals are going to give him his long-awaited contract extension.
That's a conversation for the offseason, as both Thompson and Draymond Green are eligible for huge contract extensions, and Durant is expected to opt out of his contract and could also sign a huge new deal.
Those financial decisions feel a long way away still, and yet the Warriors were a poor second half away from an early offseason and several stark, organizational decisions to make. Can they really pay all four of their All-Stars maximum contracts?
Thompson simply wasn't ready for any of that offseason talk to begin.
"I don't want to go home. Not tonight. I don't want to go home," he yelled out during the game in a show of emotion captured on the big screen at Oracle Arena.
"I just like competing," he said. "If you go out there and play hard and with passion, you can live with the results. That's what I've learned."