On a night where the Golden State Warriors really struggled to find any kind of rhythm on offense, small forward Harrison Barnes came up big in Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals for a trip to the championship. Courtesy of Barnes’s spectacular 24 points, the Warriors are heading to the NBA Finals for the first time in 40 years for the chance to take home the coveted Larry O’Brien Trophy.
During the regular season, Harrison Barnes averaged just a little over 10 points per game but truly shined during his postseason performance when the Warriors needed it most in Game 5 of the Conference Finals. Despite facing a difficult time landing his shot against the Rockets and shooting just 7 for 21 from the field, league MVP Stephen Curry still posted 26 points to go along with eight rebounds and six assists. Unfortunately, Golden State shooting guard Klay Thompson was only able to log 22 minutes due to foul trouble and a flying knee by Houston Rockets small forward Trevor Ariza. With 9 minutes and 31 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter, Thompson got Ariza to bite on a pump fake, and while Ariza was still up in the air, Thompson made a move right into his knee. It appeared to be unintentional but Klay Thompson went down hard. Luckily, there is a week before the NBA Finals begin on June 4th, giving Klay Thompson a week to rest up and prepare to battle for the league title.
In addition to falling short of the big game, Houston Rockets shooting guard James Harden broke a record during the Conference Finals that isn’t one to be particularly proud of. Prior to Game 5, the previous record for the most turnovers by one player in a playoff game was held by John Williamson with 11; Harden surpassed that number and finished the game with 13 turnovers. The Golden State Warriors defense also seriously limited his shooting abilities, allowing Harden just 2 for 11 from the field. Warriors head coach Steve Kerr went on to praise Andre Iguodala’s defensive effort on James Harden, which was accompanied by 28 outstanding minutes from backup center Festus Ezeli. Normally, Ezeli does not see the court for too long but the Warriors needed a big body to defend Dwight Howard. Only one rebound shy of a double-double, Festus Ezeli’s efforts helped lift the Golden State Warriors over the Houston Rockets by a score of 104 to 90.
The Warriors haven’t won an NBA Championship since 1975 and the franchise hopes to change history next week. After sweeping the Atlanta Hawks in the Eastern Conference Finals, the Cleveland Cavaliers will meet the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals for Game 1 on June 4th. The two Finals participants match up well against one another, making the outlook for this series very close. The championship will feature arguably the two best players in the NBA between LeBron James and Stephen Curry. It will be very interesting to see if the Cavaliers defense can slow down Curry and the Warriors, while Golden State’s ability to stop King James will be put to the test. Without the services of power forward Kevin Love to accompany Kyrie Irving, Cleveland might suffer when it comes to matching up against the high scoring tempo in Golden State. Clear your schedule sports fans because this is going to be one of the most exciting NBA Finals in recent basketball history.