HOUSTON -- Warriors superstar Stephen Curry scored all 33 of his points in the second half, including 23 in the fourth quarter, to propel Golden State to a series-clinching 118-113 Game 6 win over the Rockets on Friday night.
After shooting 0-for-5 from the field in the first half and failing to register a point in the first 24 minutes of a postseason game for the first time, Curry responded with one of the most prolific second-half performances in his storied career.
"That's what Steph does," Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. "I actually told his mom and dad after the game, I said, 'If that game didn't personify Steph Curry, I don't know what did.' He's a guy who can make some plays that leave you scratching your head -- the fouls, some of the turnovers, not tonight, but sometimes he just makes plays and you kinda look around and think, 'What is he doing?' But most of the time, he makes these incredible plays, and he's just fearless. And that's what makes him who he is."
Curry, who struggled at various points throughout the series to find a rhythm against a tough Rockets defense, received a huge ovation from his teammates after walking into the Warriors' locker room after the game.
"It did not surprise me one bit," Warriors swingman Klay Thompson said of Curry's performance. "The man is a competitor, a champion, and on top of all that he just plays with such great heart. He's our leader. His composure is unbelievable as well."
As the Warriors continued celebrating long after Game 6 was over, even Curry couldn't help but smile when asked to describe how poorly he played in the first half.
"I was pretty terrible," Curry said. "I just didn't make a shot, fouling. I think the only thing I did well was not turn the ball over for the 12 minutes I was out there on the floor. So I find a positive in everything."
Curry's performance was even more crucial than usual, given that Warriors star forward Kevin Durant was back in the Bay Area, unable to travel because of a calf injury suffered in Game 5.
With the win, the Warriors will host the winner of the Portland Trail Blazers-Denver Nuggets series in Game 1 of the Western Conference finals on Tuesday night at Oracle Arena. They will do so with the expectation that Durant, who will be reevaluated in a week, will return at some point during the series.
Curry and his teammates know they will need Durant healthy to win a third straight NBA championship, but they enjoyed the fact that they were an underdog heading into Game 6.
"We had an opportunity to -- it's kind of weird to say -- prove a lot of people wrong knowing what we accomplished," Curry said. "But it's a lot of talking in the last 24, 48 hours about what we should and should not do in this series with KD out. I talked about it a lot, K has been unbelievable in this playoff run. We don't get to a Game 6 opportunity to close it out without him playing unbelievable and spectacular basketball and carrying us the first 11 games.
"The least we can do is come in here and get a win. Get some rest before the Western Conference finals and give him the chance to get healthy and go chase another championship. It's special. I know he's back at home celebrating and can't wait to get back and prepare for the next series."
All the chatter surrounding his game and his struggles at times during this series clearly motivated Curry, who suffered a dislocated left middle finger in Game 2 and went 7-for-23 in Game 3 and 9-for-23 in Game 5. He said he understood that people were questioning his game, and he took it upon himself to carry the Warriors down the stretch even though his finger was still clearly bothering him.
After hearing that LeBron James and Dwyane Wade had chided Curry's critics on their Twitter accounts after his Game 6 heroics, Curry said, "I've heard a lot of noise this series, for sure. I'll just leave it at that. Whether it's positive, negative, whatever the case is -- I know what I'm capable of. It's bigger than me, so I just don't get caught up in that.
"I don't need any extra motivation. I don't need to hear who I am as a player; I know that. And so my confidence never wavers in those type of moments. I obviously appreciate those words, and champions recognize champions and what it takes to win games like tonight and do what we've been able to do these last five years. So hopefully more of that to come."