So much for a championship hangover. Fresh off a 67-win season and the franchise's first title in 40 years, the Golden State Warriors followed their pregame ring and banner-raising ceremony by handling the shorthanded New Orleans Pelicans 111-95 Tuesday night at Oracle Arena. It will be a challenge to repeat as champs, but the season opener suggested that the Warriors are up to the task.
The star of the night should not come as a surprise. Reigning MVP Stephen Curry started very hot, scoring a career-high 24 first-quarter points on 9-of-13 shooting (including 4-of-7 from deep) as Golden State put up 39 in the opening period. Take a look at Curry's searing opening to the season in this clip:
Curry cooled down to finish 14-of-26 from the field and 5-of-12 from three-point range, but his 40 points are the best mark for a reigning MVP in a season opener since Kareem Abdul-Jabbar scored 41 in 1972. As ever, Curry's ability to shoot from anywhere at any point stretched the Pelicans defense and opened up the Warriors attack.
Nevertheless, the game was not an outright romp for Golden State. All other Warriors shot a mere 4-of-18 from deep, including a disappointing 0-of-2 with eight overall field goal attempts for All-Star Klay Thompson. The second Splash Brother also turned it over seven times, which would have stood out more if the Warriors hadn't had 20 as a team.
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They also received an injury scare in the third quarter when center Andrew Bogut, already wearing a protective mask for a broken nose, had to leave the game due to a laceration above his right eye that caused him to bleed on the court. Here's the video if you can stomach it:
Bogut received stitches and did not return. He put up an impressive 12 points (6-of-6 FG), five rebounds, and five assists on the same night that he placed his first championship ring on his middle finger.
The good news for the Warriors was that their mistakes looked minimal in comparison to the difficulties faced by the Pelicans in Alvin Gentry's first game as head coach. Playing without a handful of injured regulars including Omer Asik, Jrue Holiday, and Tyreke Evans, New Orleans started Nate Robinson and Kendrick Perkins (in 2015!) on a night that found just nine players capable of seeing the court. All-NBA performer Anthony Davis compounded matters with one of the worst nights of his career, starting 1-of-15 from the field on his way to 18 points on 20 attempts (with 10-of-15 FT) and five turnovers. Eric Gordon also struggled (14 points on 5-of-17 FG with four turnovers), and the Pelicans would have been in much more serious trouble if not for the play of recent waiver-wire addition Ish Smith (17 points and nine assists) and a surprising offensive outburst from Perkins (10 points on 5-of-5 FG in 16 minutes).
The circumstances of the night heavily favored the Warriors, but they still followed through with the sort of impressive play that made them so dominant throughout 2014-15. While Friday's matchup at the Houston Rockets should prove a sterner test, the early returns should have the Warriors feeling confident as they set about defending their title.
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