OAKLAND – The Warriors opened Game 1 of their first-round playoff series Saturday rather drowsily, perhaps due to the early afternoon tipoff or maybe because they are heavy favorites against Houston.
Before long, though, they were shoved into alertness by irascible Rockets guard Patrick Beverly, who got a bit too aggressive grabbing and pushing Stephen Curry. The two engaged in a brief clash after which both were assessed technical fouls.
Mess with Steph? The Oracle Arena crowd instantly transformed from energetic to vociferous, raining boos upon Beverley every time he touched the ball. Curry and his teammates simultaneously dug in and started roaring, not stopping until they had a 104-78 victory.
“That’s playoff basketball,” said Draymond Green, who later set a screen for Curry that sent Beverley sprawling. “That’s what you expect coming into the playoffs. It’s going to be a very physical game. Teams are going to try to rough you up.”
The Warriors spent the opening 5:29 committing two turnovers and missing eight of their first 12 shots. Post-clash, they went on a 22-9 run to close the quarter, going 8-of-12 from the field in the process.
The Warriors responded to Beverley’s fire with fire of their own, and coach Steve Kerr would have it no other way. Indeed, he expressed a measure of pride.
“Just the way they reacted, with poise and physical play themselves without doing anything dirty,” Kerr said.
“But our defense was physical and solid and that’s the way to respond. It really is the playoffs. This is how these playoff games go. There’s a ton of time to prepare. It’s a different game from earlier in the season in terms of the intensity.”
Curry scored 16 points in the first quarter, with 13 coming in less than five minutes after the double technical. He finished with 24 points in 20 minutes before leaving after tweaking his right ankle, which puts in doubt his status for Game 2 Monday.
His teammates did not let him down. The Warriors were up 26 when he left late in the first half. They were up 26 when, after a brief return, he left in the second half. The final margin of victory was, of course, 26.
“It sucks to watch,” said Curry, who sat out the final 21 minutes, “especially in the playoffs. You want to be out there playing. I felt like a kid in timeout on the bench. Probably didn’t have a great face, frustrated because the action’s right there in front of me. But I couldn’t be a part of it anymore.
“Those guys did their job down the stretch.”
They relied mostly on defense. After holding Houston to 33 points (on 35.9-percent shooting) in the first half – the lowest of any Warriors playoff opponent in the shot-clock era – the Warriors limited the Rockets to 35.6 percent in the second half.
James Harden was 7-of-19 from the field and, stunningly, the man who averages 10 free throws a game got zero. Trevor Ariza was 3-of-10, Corey Brewer 1-of-8, Beverley 1-of-7. It was, for the Warriors, a fairly comprehensive lockup.
“Our defense was excellent,” Kerr said. “We didn’t reach. We made them earn every point. We did have the brief moment when Steph went out and we lost our poise and lost our focus. But we quickly recovered, and a lot of guys played very well.”
The Warriors got a fine performance from Draymond Green, who submitted 12 points, 10 rebounds, four assists, four blocks, two steals and defense worthy of following a drum roll. They also got a superb effort from most of the bench.
Andre Iguodala didn’t shoot well (1-of-5) but was masterful in every other aspect, with seven assists and marvelous defense, finishing the game at plus-23. Marreese Speights delivered 12 points and five rebounds. The reserves totaled 43 points – six more than the four starters not named Curry.
The whole crew of Warriors stepped forth, ready for whatever was to come after Beverley instigated things. It may have been something the Warriors needed to be reminded that this is the postseason, where prisoners are not taken.
“We got through this game,” Green said. “We can build on this.
“But we have to know they’re going to try to throw haymakers in Game 2. We have to come out, stand our ground and push back.”