HOUSTON (Texas) • Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr joked that he had considered resigning before his team bounced back from a disastrous first-half performance to reach the National Basketball Association (NBA) Finals on Monday.
The Warriors recovered from a 15-point deficit in the first half to overpower the Houston Rockets 101-92 and set up a fourth consecutive finals showdown with the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Act 4 of the teams' long-running rivalry is guaranteed to be historic no matter how big a mismatch it appears on paper in Golden State's favour, as never before in any of North America's four major team sports have the same two teams met to decide the championship four times in a row.
But Kerr admitted his team were fortunate to escape Houston with the Western Conference crown after a first-half display he ranked as one of the worst he had seen.
Asked what he had been thinking about at the end of the first half, Kerr replied: "I was thinking of resigning, that was my first thought.
"I walked in at half-time, and I said, I don't even recognise this team. We've been together for four years. I didn't recognise the group that we were seeing. But sometimes you forget. Game 7, you get some nerves."
10 No team had won multiple elimination games in the same series when trailing by 10 at half-time until the Golden State Warriors in Games 6 and 7.
What would be familiar to Kerr is how Golden State have been the league's best third-quarter team on his watch, and they did not disappoint after the restart.
The Warriors outscored the Rockets 33-15 in the third period, posting a plus-68 scoring margin in the third quarters for the series.
Stephen Curry scored 14 of his 27 points in the third period, including 11 points in a row during a critical game-turning stretch.
Kevin Durant finished with 34 points, five rebounds, and five assists for the Warriors, and Klay Thompson chipped in 19 points despite early foul trouble.
Kerr said the raw talent of the Warriors line-up was decisive.
"Our talent took over," he said. "It's as simple as that. We've got three of the best shot makers in the league, and they all got hot at different points of the second half."
The Rockets played a role in their own demise too.
When their offence collapsed in the third quarter, their verve dissipated too. They missed 27 consecutive three-point attempts - an NBA play-off record.
Rockets coach Mike D'Antoni said of the Warriors' third-quarter surge. "That's what their trademark is. When they get it going, it's tough to turn them off."
James Harden posted 32 points, six rebounds, six assists and four steals for the Rockets, who again were without guard Chris Paul (right hamstring strain).
Rockets guard Eric Gordon, who scored 23 points, said of Paul's absence: "It sucks because you know you could win this series if we just had one more playmaker. If we had Chris... we'd have been playing on Thursday. It's just tough."
The championship series begins tomorrow (Friday morning, Singapore time) in Oakland, California.
"This is a situation we've never been in before... to win a Game 7 on the road, keep our composure for the whole series," Curry said. "All those hurdles and obstacles, we got over them, so it's an unbelievable feeling, man."
REUTERS, NYTIMES, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE