The Golden State Warriors brushed off the unsettling absence of injured star Stephen Curry on Wednesday to demolish the Houston Rockets and advance to the next round of the NBA playoffs.
The Warriors’ hopes of successfully defending their NBA crown received a blow on Sunday after Curry was sidelined for at least two weeks with a sprained knee ligament.
But the Warriors did enough in a 114-81 rout of the Rockets to remind the pretenders to their crown that they remain a formidable outfit even without their talisman.
The 4-1 series victory means the Warriors will now face either the Portland Trail Blazers or the injury-ravaged Los Angeles Clippers in the next round of the Western Conference playoffs.
Portland appear to be in pole position to face Golden State after defeating the Clippers 108-98 on Wednesday to take a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven series.
Whether the Blazers will have enough to trouble the Warriors, even without Curry, remains to be seen.
Golden State coach Steve Kerr, who received his NBA Coach of the Year award just before tip off at the Oracle Arena, hailed his team’s strength in depth after the win.
“Literally every single guy on our roster contributed during this series,” Kerr said.
That point was emphasized by the performance of Curry’s replacement, veteran Shaun Livingston, who finished with 16 points on Wednesday.
James Harden scored a game-high 35 points for the Rockets, but the result was never in doubt after the Warriors sprinted into a 37-20 lead in the first quarter that they never looked like losing.
While the Warriors overcame the absence of Curry smoothly, the Clippers were unable to paper over the gaping hole in their ranks left by the absence of injured stars Chris Paul and Blake Griffin.
The Clippers fought bravely to stay in touch heading into the fourth quarter at the Staples Centre.