OAKLAND, Calif. -- This was not a competitive game, which says something about the Golden State Warriors and the Houston Rockets, their desultory foe. From the beginning of the Warriors' series-clinching 114-81 win in Wednesday's Game 5, James Harden was efficient, but he was one of the weak links on a defense that totally collapsed. The end came quickly for the Rockets.
On offense, Houston was a one-man team, wholly dependent on Harden.
"Don't get me wrong, he was great," Draymond Green said after the game. "[Harden] was scoring the basketball every way. He hit some tough shots, 2s and 3s. But when you dominate the ball like that, that's one thing Coach Kerr's really trying to teach us -- move the ball, because it just creates rhythm."
In stark contrast, the Warriors shared the ball, got contributions from a variety of players and thrived in the absence of Stephen Curry.
Golden State’s “Strength in Numbers” slogan might be a bit corny and a bit platitudinous. It also has resonance on an evening when a collective effort puts the opponent’s approach in stark relief. Harden had 35 points, 24 more than anyone else on the Rockets' roster (Michael Beasley claimed 11). The Rockets continue to lack defensive communication and evoke a strong sense that they dislike playing together. The Warriors opened by carving them with cuts and quick passes, pushing the first quarter lead to 17 and never looking back.
The Warriors have managed an esprit de corps, despite Curry’s worrying MCL strain. He at least showed decent mobility in cheering on his teammates, jumping, dancing and gesticulating referee calls as the crowd roared.
Klay Thompson has been magnificent since Curry went down at the end of the first half in Game 4. After that point, he has hit 11-of-17 3-pointers.
"Klay had one of those games where you could sense it coming," Steve Kerr said afterward. "He makes one and you could kind of see it in his eyes, so he had it rolling, and I thought Klay had a fantastic series."
On Wednesday, Thompson effectively ended the game on back-to-back deep 3s in the third quarter. He commemorated the feat with a rare, wild, tongue-waggling celebration.
"Urgency of the game, and we did not want to go back to Houston on a long flight," the Warriors' marksman said. "It's always fun to protect the home court. We pride ourselves in not losing here. So it was a fun night, and it's obviously fun when shots go in."
Green also was brilliant in Curry’s absence, which is notable considering how some still doubt his quality, attributing his rising stardom to Curry’s influence.
"People would tweet me and say, 'Oh, you're nothing without Steph.' And then I'm not saying I'm nothing without him," the 26-year-old All-star said. "But at the end of the day, when he's on the court, he makes me better, and I'll never be afraid to say that. As a teammate, you have to make each other better. So I don't really pay attention to the noise."
Green's ubiquity was on full display (15 points, nine rebounds and eight assists), pushing the pace on offense like few power forwards can.
"'Oh, you can't do this without Steph' or 'You can't do that without Steph,'" Green continued. "I know what I'm capable of. I also know he makes me better. I mean, he's incredible. If he don't make you better, you suck. So I'm fine with that."
Stephen Curry allows the Warriors to reach a height perhaps no team ever has, but the final game of this series spoke to the foundation he elevates. The Warriors are more than just Stephen Curry and, right now, the Rockets are little more than James Harden.