HOUSTON » Stephen Curry has been playing like the MVP he is to help the Golden State Warriors to 2-0 lead in the Western Conference finals.
Now things get tougher as the Warriors head to Houston for two games beginning Saturday night.
Curry scored 34 points in Game 1, 33 in Game 2 and has made 11 3-pointers in the series.
"You put a lot of hard work into your craft, and when you rely on that work, you kind of just are in the moment, and those shots, when you rise up to take them, it feels natural, it feels normal," Curry said. "I feel confident, and you just live with the results."
The Warriors took the first game by four points and won the second one by a point when MVP runner-up James Harden couldn’t fight through a double team to get a shot up for Houston before time expired.
"It hurts, but they did what they had to do," Harden said. "They won two games at home. We’re going back home to get two games."
The Warriors had a 17-point lead Thursday night before a big run by the Rockets got them back into it. Golden State was unhappy that it let the game become so dramatic at the end.
"They feel like they lost two games they should have won," Golden State’s Draymond Green said. "We feel like we almost gave this one away … we have a ways to go, there’s a lot we can get better at. But we’re sitting here 2-0 and that’s the most important thing."
Houston point guard Jason Terry, who won a title with Dallas in 2011, said Game 3 is the most important one of the series for the Rockets.
"This is a must-win game for us," he said. "Must-win time. You have to love it. It’s the Western Conference finals. What better place to be? Going home and the sense of urgency is going to be there from the tip."
Some things to know heading into Game 3.
Houston center Dwight Howard is listed as probable for Game 3 after spraining his left knee in Game 1. He was injured when teammate Josh Smith crashed into him on Tuesday night and he struggled to get ready for Game 2. But he shook off the injury to finish with 19 points and 17 rebounds in 40 minutes.
"We know that no matter what’s going in, I’m not going to let it defeat me — an injury, losing a game or two — I’m not going to let it defeat my spirits," Howard said. "I want the team to fight through and that’s the only way to go. That’s the only way you succeed."
Coach Kevin McHale was impressed by Howard’s performance.
"What can you say? I mean, the guy played fantastic," McHale said. "His knee is bothering him a lot and … one thing about Dwight is when Dwight starts a game, he very seldom wants to come out."
The Warriors finished with 16 turnovers in Game 2 and five of them came in a 10-minute span ending with about 10 1/2 minutes left in the third quarter. Those miscues helped Houston erase a 17-point deficit and take a 58-55 lead. Golden State coach Steve Kerr pinpointed a reason for the turnovers.
"I think sometimes our group competes so hard that the distinction between making the simple play and playing as hard as you can gets blurred," he said. "You have to be able to separate those two things. You’ve got to compete like crazy and then you have to take a breath and just make the simple play."
THREES, THREES AND MORE THREES
The Warriors and Rockets love long-range shooting and showed it in the first two games of the series. Don’t expect that to change Saturday with some of the league’s best 3-point shooters on the court. Golden State is averaging 29.3 3-point attempts in the postseason, which leads the NBA, and Houston is fourth with 27.6 tries a game. The Warriors also lead all playoff teams by making 11.1 a game to 9.6 by the Rockets. These teams have combined to make 33 3-pointers in this series, with the Warriors leading in that category with 18.
CURRY VS. HARDEN
For a stretch Thursday night it seemed as if Curry and Harden were involved in a game of one-on-one with each player making shot after shot. Some of their teammates talked about enjoying the matchup within the game, but Kerr wasn’t one of them.
"I’ll look at that on tape, and maybe in a few months I’ll look back and enjoy the duel," he said. "But right now it’s just possession by possession, trying to get it done."