OAKLAND (California) • After completing the best regular season in National Basketball Association (NBA) history, the Golden State Warriors faced their Western Conference first-round series against Houston with observers asking if the Rockets stood a chance.
If they did not have one at the outset, they found one late in the second quarter on Saturday, when Warriors star Stephen Curry rolled his ankle while trying to change directions.
The reigning champions are calling it a tweak, and Curry was healthy enough to return for about three minutes in the third quarter before coach Steve Kerr, concerned about the way he was moving on the court, removed Curry for good.
Still, Curry finished with a game-high 24 points, hitting five of seven three-point attempts, as the Warriors won in a rout, 104-78.
Game 2 will be played in Oakland today (tomorrow morning, Singapore time).
"I would just say Steph is questionable, so we'll see how he responds the next couple of days and we'll go from there," Kerr said.
Curry, speaking at a post-game news conference, sounded determined to play, but also issued a note of caution.
"Right now, I don't see a scenario where I'll be out," he said. "If it's not right, and I'm at risk of further injury or what-not, that's the only thing to worry about."
The Rockets have concerns of their own. In a rematch of last season's Western Conference finals, Golden State simply choked the life out of them.
The Warriors, coming off a regular-season record of 73 victories, looked nothing like the team who lost two of three games to open the month. Klay Thompson added 16 points for the Warriors, while James Harden led Houston with 17.
Even with Houston facing obvious pressure to do something about the Warriors' unprecedented three-point production - they hit an NBA-record 1,077 during the season - Golden State came out firing. The Warriors compiled their first nine points from deep as part of a first-half attack that ended with a 60-33 lead.
Backup point guard Shaun Livingston helped the Warriors withstand a third-quarter run, and in the end the Rockets scored only one more point than Golden State did in the second half.
Towards the end of the regular season, the Rockets improved, showing good ball movement and increased aggression in winning four of their final six games, including a victory over third seeds Oklahoma City Thunder.
Post-season play at Oracle Arena, though, is a different beast. Golden State's defenders switched at will, regardless of who was on the court, shutting down virtually every tactic the Rockets sought to employ.
Harden is Houston's best player, and his game is predicated on drawing contact in the paint, but he failed to reach the free-throw line.
"One of their strengths is versatility," Rockets coach J.B. Bickerstaff said after the game.
"We didn't do a good enough job making them pay. When they switch, we have to move more, but instead we moved less, which made us easier to guard."
NEW YORK TIMES, REUTERS
1st rd, Game 2 - West: Oklahoma City v Dallas StarHub Ch216, tomorrow, 8am