OAKLAND, CALIF. – After a generation of wishing and waiting, the Golden State Warriors finally have arrived on basketball's biggest stage again.
Stephen Curry had 26 points and eight rebounds, Harrison Barnes added 24 points and the Warriors advanced to the NBA Finals for the first time in 40 years with a 104-90 victory over the Houston Rockets on Wednesday night.
"Why not us?" Curry said to a roaring, golden-yellow shirt wearing crowd after the Warriors received the Western Conference trophy from Alvin Attles, the coach of their last championship team in 1975.
The Warriors shook off a slow start and sweated out a shaky finish in Game 5 to close out the Rockets and set up a matchup with LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers beginning June 4. It was hardly the prettiest performance — but one they'll savor nonetheless.
Yellow streamers and confetti fell from the rafters when the final buzzer sounded. The Warriors shared hugs and handshakes, and the crowd chanted "M-V-P!" for Curry, who relished the moment on the court with his 2-year-old daughter, Riley.
"We deserve to celebrate tonight but we've still got unfinished business, and it's a long time coming for the Bay Area," Warriors All-Star guard Klay Thompson said.
All five Rockets starters scored at least 10 points, but MVP runner-up James Harden had a forgettable finale. Harden had a playoff-record 13 turnovers and scored 14 points on just 2-for-11 shooting.
Dwight Howard led Houston with 18 points and 16 rebounds.
"Tried to do a little bit too much and turned the ball over and gave them easy baskets in transition," Harden said. "This isn't where we wanted to end at. It's a really good season for us. Next year we want to be better, and we will."
Curry said he had no lingering effects from his frightening fall in Game 4 that left him with a bruised head and right side. The MVP wore a protective yellow sleeve on his right arm, which he shed in the third quarter after shooting 4-for-12 and the Warriors clinging to a 52-46 halftime lead.
Things got tougher on Curry when backcourt mate Thompson faked a shot that drew Trevor Ariza in the air early in the fourth quarter. Thompson absorbed Ariza's knee to the side of his head, sending him to the floor.
Thompson, who finished with 20 points, lay on the ground for a minute before walking to the locker room. He came back to the bench with what the team called a right ear laceration.
The Warriors said he could've returned, but they never needed him. They started the fourth quarter on a 13-4 run and held off Houston's last-ditch efforts on free throws.