OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA - StephenCurry won his personal duel with James Harden as the Golden State Warriors overcame an early deficit and survived a late scare to edge the Houston Rockets 110-106 in Game 1 of the National Basketball Association Western Conference Finals on Tuesday.
Curry contributed 34 points, six rebounds and five assists, and added key buckets in the closing stages to give the top-seeded Warriors a 1-0 lead in the best-of-seven series in front of a raucous home crowd.
The Warriors, who are in their first Conference Finals since the mid-1970s, are known more for their offensive prowess. But on Tuesday, they shut down the Rockets with some timely defence.
"It's entertaining basketball. We're both supposed to help our team win and make an impact on the game," Curry told reporters. "There are going to be stretches where (we both play well). He made some crazy plays."
However, Golden State fans were nervous early on, when their team fell 16 points behind in the second quarter. But the Warriors responded with a 16-2 run to seize control by half-time.
Harden, who finished as runner-up to Curry for the regular-season Most Valuable Player award, nearly delivered a triple-double with 28 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists, and caught fire in the second half to rally the Rockets, who have not been to the Conference Finals since 1997.
Houston have already proved capable of comebacks in overcoming a 1-3 deficit to oust the Los Angeles Clippers in the last round, and used a late 7-0 run to pull within 106-108 with 14sec remaining.
However, Curry settled nerves by making two free throws to seal the win for Golden State, who got 18 points off the bench from Shaun Livingston.
"Game 1 slipped away from us," Harden lamented after Trevor Ariza scored 20 points, and Josh Smith added 17 and seven rebounds for the Rockets.
"We had several opportunities to win the game.
"We have to look at the film and correct things and be better in Game 2."
Houston centre Dwight Howard suffered a knee injury in the first quarter, returned for a while, but left for good in the fourth. They will need his inside presence as the series progresses.
"He's our top rebounder and protects the paint," Houston coach Kevin McHale said of Howard. "Hopefully he'll be better."