NBA: Harden sinks clutch winner as Rockets stun Warriors

Houston Rockets player James Harden (centre) goes to the basket against the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Western Conference first round basketball game.
Houston Rockets player James Harden (centre) goes to the basket against the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Western Conference first round basketball game.PHOTO: EPA

(AFP) - James Harden drained the game winner on a turnaround jumper with two seconds left as the Houston Rockets clipped the Stephen Curry-less Golden State Warriors 97-96 in a first-round NBA play-off contest.

Harden's clutch basket on Thursday allowed the Rockets to cut the Warriors series lead in the Western Conference tussle to two games to one.

The defending champion Warriors were playing without MVP guard Curry, who has an injured right ankle. The Warriors hope to have Curry back in the fold for game four on Sunday at the Toyota Centre arena.

The Rockets blew a 17-point lead and trailed with 10 seconds left when Trevor Ariza threw away an inbounds pass that resulted in a fastbreak lay-up by Warriors reserve guard Ian Clark.

That set the stage for Harden's heroics. He followed with a quick dribble, drove the lane and spun free before nailing the short jump shot.

Golden State forward Draymond Green dribbled the ensuing inbounds pass off his foot and out of bounds for a turnover with one second left.

Harden finished with 35 points, eight rebounds and nine assists to pace five Rockets in double figure scoring. Donatas Motiejunas tallied 14 points and 13 rebounds, and Dwight Howard added 13 points and 13 rebounds but missed two key free throws with 3min 7sec left.

Reserve forward Marreese Speights paced the Warriors with 22 points.