Warriors hot even without Kerr

Golden State guard Stephen Curry getting in a shot despite the close attention of New Orleans forward Ryan Anderson. The NBA title holders won 111-95 at the Oracle Arena in Oakland.
Golden State guard Stephen Curry getting in a shot despite the close attention of New Orleans forward Ryan Anderson. The NBA title holders won 111-95 at the Oracle Arena in Oakland.PHOTO: USA TODAY SPORTS

Coach yet to return after op as they start title defence, Curry's 40 points the most by MVP in opener in 43 years

OAKLAND (California) • Steve Kerr was unable to coach the Golden State Warriors on opening night of the National Basketball Association as he has not recovered from back surgery. But that did not stop him from giving his interim replacement, Luke Walton, some last-minute advice on Tuesday.

"He told me, 'We won 67 (regular-season) games last year, and I didn't know what I was doing at all'," Walton said after the Warriors began their title defence with a 111-95 rout of the New Orleans Pelicans. "His point being: We have many good players. Trust them."

The most trustworthy on this night was point guard Stephen Curry, who poured in 40 points. He became the first reigning Most Valuable Player to score 40-plus points in the opener since Kareem Abdul-Jabbar had 41 in 1972.

"I expected to play well," said Curry, whose 24-point first quarter was the most for any player in the opening period of a curtain-raiser in the last 20 years. "We had a good flow, and I got into a rhythm.

"When you're in a rhythm, you want to keep attacking."

The evening was a joyous one for the Warriors from start to finish, as they received their 2014-15 championship rings in a pre-game ceremony featuring NBA commissioner Adam Silver.

They picked up right where they left off, on a home court on which they have not lost a regular-season game since January.

This time, however, they were without Kerr, who attended the ring ceremony but then headed straight to the locker room, where he rested his ailing back as he watched the game on television.

Curry buried four three-pointers during his first-quarter explosion, as the Warriors thrilled a crowd who had just taken their seats following the raising of just the franchise's second banner in their West Coast history.

The Warriors went on to lead by 10 at half-time and by as many as 20 in the third quarter, before coasting home for an easy victory over a Pelicans team they swept 4-0 in the first round of last year's play-offs.

New Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry, a 2014-15 Warriors assistant coach, received a championship ring to a loud ovation before the game.

However, he was then relegated to watching his old pals dominate his injury-depleted club.

"I told the guys, 'We're not going to use injuries as an excuse'," he said. "We've got to play hard and compete like crazy, and then whatever happens from there, we'll deal with that."

The Pelicans suited up only nine guys, played without three starters - point guard Jrue Holiday, small forward Tyreke Evans and centre Omer Asik - and endured a 4-for-20 shooting night by star forward Anthony Davis.

"The challenge was set. We weren't going to double-team him," Walton said of the defensive game plan on Davis.

"Our guys took that challenge."

Davis, who ranked among the league's leading scorers last season with a 24.4 average, finished with a team-high 18 points.

Curry had no such problems with his shooting, connecting on 14 of 26, including five of 12 three-point attempts. He also contributed seven assists, six rebounds and two steals to the win.

"Stephen Curry is unbelievable," Walton said.

"We had a couple of early lapses and Stephen carried us."

Warriors back-up centre Festus Ezeli had 13 points. Power forward Draymond Green, the primary defender on Davis, totalled 10 to go with eight rebounds, helping Golden State out-rebound New Orleans 56-33. The extra opportunities made the difference, as the Warriors shot just marginally better than the Pelicans - 42.7 per cent to 42.2 per cent.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 29, 2015, with the headline 'WARRIORS HOT EVEN WITHOUT KERR'. Print Edition | Subscribe