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Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals once again showcased an individual battle between the two most valuable players in the league. And once again, Stephen Curry helped the Golden State Warriors come out on top.

James Harden was outstanding with 38 points, 10 rebounds, nine assists and three steals Thursday. Unfortunately, he lost control of the ball with a chance to earn the go-ahead basket, allowing the Warriors to escape with a 99-98 win over the Houston Rockets at Oracle Arena.

Here is a look at the final opportunity for Harden:

NBA on ESPN noted that with Harden’s performance, he “ties Hakeem Olajuwon for most consecutive 20-point games to begin a postseason (14) in Rockets history.”

Sekou Smith of NBA.com gave his thoughts on the final stop by the Warriors:

Of course, offense also had a lot to do with the success, as Curry had himself another impressive game with 33 points and six assists. He finished 5-of-11 from three-point range, putting himself in the record books for his outside shooting:

The league’s MVP did just enough to get the better of the award’s runner-up, although it was an outstanding two-man battle throughout. Ray Ratto of CSN Bay Area summed up the action:

Pat Forde of Yahoo Sports also gave his thoughts on the stars in this one:

Andrew Bogut made a big impact as well with 14 points, eight rebounds and five blocks, while Draymond Green filled up the box score with 12 points, eight rebounds and seven assists. These performances helped make up for 16 team turnovers and a poor shooting day from Klay Thompson (6-of-15 overall, 1-of-7 from three).

On the other end of the court, Harden didn’t get much help outside of Dwight Howard, who had 19 points and 17 rebounds despite being questionable coming into the day with a knee injury. Terrence Jones and Josh Smith were the only other Rockets players in double figures with 12 and 10, respectively.

Golden State had a more balanced attack to get out to an early lead before holding on to grab a 2-0 series lead.

Starting the game better was part of the plan for the Warriors going into the day after the Rockets forced them to overcome a 16-point second-quarter deficit in Game 1.

“We can’t get used to coming back,” Curry explained Wednesday, per Diamond Leung of the San Jose Mercury News. “That’s not a situation where we want to be in night in, night out. But it’s a good sign that we’re able to bounce back when we need to.”

The MVP took it upon himself to get it done with 15 points in the first quarter while leading the Warriors to a 36-28 lead. Erik Malinowski of Sports on Earth provided a general feeling of those watching the game:

Meanwhile, the best play of the early going came off one of Curry’s passes:

However, this time it was the Rockets’ chance to come back from a big deficit. Harden keyed a 23-6 run at the end of the second quarter to force a 55-55 tie at halftime.

Bleacher Report’s Jonathan Feigen gave his thoughts on the team’s effort:

The third quarter was much more balanced, as neither side earned more than a six-point advantage. Golden State headed into the fourth with a 77-75 lead, thanks in part to this big play by Thompson:

While the fourth quarter remained competitive, the Rockets stuck around thanks to constant mistakes by the Warriors. Monte Poole of CSN Bay Area summed up the issue halfway through the final quarter:

Every time Golden State seemed ready to pull away, Houston stayed within reach.

After a Harrison Barnes miss in the closing seconds gave Harden a chance to win the game, the guard lost control of the ball and never got a shot off, allowing the Warriors to escape with the one-point win.

The series will now shift to Houston with Game 3 taking place Saturday night at the Toyota Center.

While the Rockets appear to be in rough shape down two games in the series, they still have a chance to even things up with a pair of games in their home arena. After coming back from a 3-1 deficit in the last round, there is no reason to count out this squad.

Either way, Jenny Dial Creech of the Houston Chronicle explained why the fans truly win:

Hopefully we get to see more outstanding individual performances as the Western Conference Finals continue.

 

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