LOS ANGELES, USA (UPDATED) – Steph Curry came out firing as the Golden State Warriors claimed the NBA Western Conference finals opener still without Kevin Durant.
Curry unleashed 36 points, 27 from three-point range on a 9-of-15 clip, as the Warriors blasted the Portland Trail Blazers, 116-94, at the start of the NBA Western Conference finals in Oakland on Tuesday, May 14 (Wednesday, May 15, Philippine time).
Curry, who also had 6 rebounds and 7 assists, finished just a couple of three-pointers short of the playoff record off 11 triples in a single game set by teammate Klay Thompson in 2016. The 9 triples, though, tied Curry’s own playoff mark.
Thompson also sizzled with 26 points and Draymond Green dropped a double-double of 12 points and 10 rebounds on top of 5 assists, 3 blocks and 2 steals for the defending champions.
The Warriors again played minus Durant, the two-time Finals MVP who’s still nursing a right calf strain he sustained in Game 5 of their conference semifinal series against the Houston Rockets.
Curry said he just took advantage of what a free-flowing Warriors offense gave him.
“It was a nice flow,” Curry said. “It just puts so much pressure on the defense.
“You can’t key it on one guy and even if you try to somebody else is going to be open.”
The Trail Blazers connected on just 36.1% of their shots from the field, making just 7-of-28 three-point attempts as the Warriors drained 17 from beyond the arc.
“The schedule favored us,” acknowledged Golden State coach Steve Kerr, whose Warriors polished off the Houston Rockets on Friday.
“I thought we took advantage of the situation and got off to a good start.”
Damian Lillard paced the Blazers with 19 points but only shot 4-of-12, while CJ McCollum, Maurice Harkless and Rodney Hood fired 17 points each.
Curry already had 19 points by halftime where the Warriors built a 54-45 advantage over the Blazers, who reached the conference finals after stunning the No. 2 Denver Nuggets in Game 7 on the road.
The Warriors extended the gap to 17 points, 70-53, but the Blazers managed to trim it to just 6 points, 77-71, by the end of the period.
Golden State’s bench, though, came back answering before Curry and Thompson again took over to help put the lead back up to as high as 19 points,113-94, late in the 4th quarter.
“Great job by our bench,” Kerr said. “If we can buy some time for our starters to rest and even extend the lead, that’s a huge deal for us.”
Turnovers cost Blazers
Despite their shooting woes, the Trail Blazers managed to stay in touch much of the night thanks to making 27 of 31 free throws and outrebounding the Warriors, 47-42.
But their 21 turnovers led to 31 Warriors points – a gift no team can afford to give Golden State.
“You can’t allow that,” said Lillard, who admitted it was hard to come back from the emotional high of beating the Nuggets in Denver.
“I thought our minds were right. We came into the game ready,” he said. “But they’re a team that can go on runs, they make shots and the game can get away.”
In particular, Lillard said, the Blazers need to make things more difficult for Curry, who had open look after open look.
“That was poor execution defensively on our part,” Lillard said. “Having our bigs back that far, we’ve got to bring our guys up and run them off the line.”
The Warriors will try to double their advantage in the best-of-seven series when they host Game 2 on Thursday, May 16 (Friday, May 17, Philippine time). They are again expected to be without Durant. – With a report from Agence France-Presse