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story.lead_photo.caption Golden State Warriors guard Klay Thompson (11) celebrates during the second half of Game 6 of the NBA basketball Western Conference Finals against the Houston Rockets in Oakland, Calif., Saturday, May 26, 2018.

OAKLAND, Calif. -- Golden State's quest for a repeat championship remains intact.

An awful start was followed by three quarters of utter dominance, spot-on shot-making and beautiful defense -- even against one of the game's greatest and hardest to stop in Houston's James Harden.

The ups and downs are still perplexing to Warriors Coach Steve Kerr.

"I have no clue why our team is like this," Kerr said. "It's kind of what we do."

They might be able to do it all the way to a fourth consecutive NBA Finals.

Klay Thompson made nine three-pointers on the way to 35 points, the Warriors held Harden down in the second half, and Golden State rallied from an early 17-point deficit to stave off elimination with a 115-86 victory over the Houston Rockets on Saturday night to force a deciding Game 7 in the NBA Western Conference finals.

"I guess you could say I was born for it. Man, that felt good," Thompson said.

Stephen Curry added 29 points and five three-pointers on a night when Harden dazzled for long stretches with 32 points, 9 assists and 7 rebounds while backcourt mate Chris Paul sat out sidelined by a strained right hamstring.

Kevin Durant struggled with his shot, hitting 6 of 17, but still scored 23 points as the defending champions kept their repeat quest alive by outplaying Houston in the second half. The Warriors outscored the Rockets 55-20 in the second half before both coaches subbed their key players with 4:28 left.

A dynamic, star-studded series projected to be as captivating and compelling as the actual NBA Finals is going the distance. Game 7 is Monday night in Houston.

"We just didn't want to go out like that," Thompson said. "We wanted to force Game 7 so badly."

Golden State stymied Harden on consecutive possessions early in the fourth quarter with smothering defense led by Nick Young and several helpers. Then Thompson hit a three-pointer from the left wing at 9:40 for an 89-77 lead.

Thompson came through with his best performance of the playoffs with the season on the line, just as he did in Game 6 of the 2016 Western Conference finals at Oklahoma City when he scored 41 points against Durant and the Thunder to force Game 7.

"I thought Klay was amazing tonight, not just the 35 points and the nine threes but his defense," Kerr said. "The guy's a machine. He's just so fit physically. He seems to thrive in these situations."

Thompson went a combined 20 of 32 from three-point range in those two Game 6s.

The Warriors took an 84-77 advantage going into the final 12 minutes, then maintained that dominant level this time down the stretch.

Both teams let it fly from every corner of the court -- Golden State hitting 16 three-pointers and Houston 15.

The Warriors outscored Houston 93-47 over the final three quarters.

"Nothing changes for us. We know what we have to do," Harden said. "We're still confident. We're a confident group. We've just got one chance."

Thompson's baseline three-pointer in transition with 3:35 left in the third put the Warriors up 76-74, then Curry hit another the next time down over Gerald Green. Curry did it again moments later from deep.

The Warriors opened the third with an 11-0 burst to go ahead 62-61 on Curry's 3 at 9:17, also getting two three-pointers from Thompson and a dunk by Durant. Houston committed four quick turnovers.

Golden State did it playing again without forward Andre Iguodala, who missed his third consecutive game of the series with a bone bruise in his left knee sustained in Game 3.

Sports on 05/27/2018

Print Headline: Warriors stay alive for finale

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