Golden State stumbled on the potent lineup by accident.
After Houston raced out to a 16 point lead in the first half, the Warriors rallied by playing small ball, using Draymond Green at center when Andrew Bogut picked up his third foul midway through the second quarter.
By implementing an unconventional lineup featuring a pair of point guards and an undersized center, Golden State rallied to claim a 110-106 home victory Monday night at Oracle Arena.
Listed at 6-foot-7, Green — the runner-up for the Defensive Player of the Year award — was tasked with guarding Dwight Howard, enabling the Warriors to control.
Houston tried to counter by force-feeding the ball into Howard, hoping he would capitalize on the four-inch height differential, but ended up destroying its offensive rhythm.
Once Green began playing center, Golden State needed less than five minutes to stage a 21-4 rally to regain the lead.
Throughout the season, the Warriors experienced much success playing Green at center, as the team logged 330 minutes with him and four wing players, resulting in an offensive rating of 120.4 and a defensive rating of 93.
So during a span of 100 possessions with Green playing at center, the team would outscore opponents by 27.4 points.
The differential was much more drastic during the series opener. With Green filling in for Bogut, Golden State’s offensive rating jumped to 138.2, its defensive rating dropped to 87.9 to create a differential of 50.3 points.
In 26 minutes with Green at center, the top seed in the Western Conference outscored the Rockets 47-29.
The offense was simply unstoppable, while Green found a way to shutdown Howard.
In his final six possession against Green, before missing the fourth quarter with a bruised left knee, he Howard committed six turnovers, missed his only shot attempt and was a non-factor in rebounding a pair of missed jumpers by the Rockets as he was boxed out by Green.
In just a three minute stretch, the Warriors went on a 12-2 run before Howard was forced to the bench when Green drew a charging foul on him.
For the night, Green did a little of everything for the Warriors, logging 43 minutes on the floor as he posted team-highs with 12 rebounds and eight assists to go along with 13 points.
Livingston scored 14 of his playoff career-high 18 points in the second quarter, as he made all five of his shot attempts from the field and went to the foul line four times.
At the end of the third quarter, the Warriors managed to build a three point advantage as Curry once again beat the buzzer in a playoff game, this time launching a contested jumper from inside the arc to send the crowd into a frenzy.
The last second jumper were the only points he scored in the quarter.
The 26-year-old guard finished with 34 points, six rebounds, five assists and tacked on six more shots from 3-point range, giving him 52 conversions from beyond the arc this post season, 17 more than anyone else in the league.
Curry joined Larry Bird, Ray Allen, Kobe Bryant and Manu Ginobili as the only playoff performers in the past 30 seasons to post at least 30 points, five rebounds, five assists and make five shots from 3-point range during a Conference finals contest.
Statistically, the game was as close as it can get, as the two teams both scored 28 fast break points, there was just a two point differential in the paint, a .2 percentage in shooting from the field, a 1.9 percent differential in 3-point shooting, a .7 percent differential at the foul line and both teams managed 14 offensive rebounds.
The biggest difference was Curry, as the Rockets simply couldn’t find a defender to guard him throughout the night.
The Rockets were in the game until the final seconds, but couldn’t find a solution for Curry, as he scored the final nine points on the night for the Warriors.
Going small produced big results for Golden State.