OAKLAND, Calif. — The Golden State Warriors had something to prove all right: Oh yes, they plan to stay on top in these playoffs despite a disappointing finish to the regular season.
Kevin Durant helped the defending champions get defensive in a hurry, finishing with 24 points, eight rebounds and seven assists and the Warriors returned to their old dominant selves at playoff time to beat the cold-shooting San Antonio Spurs 113-92 on Saturday.
“Absolutely,” Klay Thompson said about playing a memorable, statement-making Game 1. “We did not end the season on a high note, we kind of hobbled into the playoffs. We know how talented we are. We know how good we are. We have been here before in the postseason and know what it takes to win.”
And they still know how to win in impressive fashion on the NBA’s big stage.
Durant, Thompson and Draymond Green took charge in Game 1 of the first-round series to elevate the Warriors’ intensity at last playing without fellow All-Star and injured two-time MVP Stephen Curry, sidelined since March 23 with a sprained left knee.
Thompson found his shooting touch and scored 27 points, making 11 of 13 shots, while 7-footer JaVale McGee started in Steve Kerr’s center-by-committee approach and contributed 15 points, four rebounds and two blocked shots in 16 minutes. Green contributed 12 points, 11 assists and eight rebounds.
Rudy Gay led the Spurs with 15 points off the bench as leading scorer LaMarcus Aldridge was limited to 14 points on 5-for-12 shooting.
“The first quarter we looked like deer in the headlights,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said.
Game 2 in the best-of-seven series is Monday night at Oracle Arena.
The Warriors looked unbeatable again. And that was without the do-everything Curry.
Golden State said all week it’s a new season, then went out and showed it. The Warriors have plans for nothing short of a repeat title.
“We’re a championship ballclub. We know what it takes this time a year to win,” Green said. “… We’re primed for this. A lot of people tend to forget what we’re capable of. We know.”
Golden State came with the kind of swarming defense it is so used to playing but hadn’t exhibited much lately as rotations were mixed and matched because of injuries and illness.
San Antonio couldn’t keep up from the opening tip.
“We were just very overly excited, overzealous,” San Antonio’s Danny Green said. “Overreacting to a lot of things because we are so excited that we’re in the playoffs and playing, obviously, the best team in the world.”
Beat up and missing its four All-Stars at times, Golden State endured a stretch losing seven of 10 last month.
Golden State swept San Antonio in the Western Conference Finals a year ago on the way to a second championship in three seasons and an astonishing, record-setting 16-1 postseason run.
Kerr always said his team would be ready when these playoffs came around.
The Warriors were determined to pick up their defense, and they did just that.
Green, Durant and the others quickly closed on shooters and got hands up to alter shots.
2015 Finals MVP Andre Iguodala moved into the starting lineup for the 2018 edition of that “Strength In Numbers” mantra — and all those bright yellow T-shirts through the arena are there to back it.
Iguodala, who started just seven games all season before Saturday, had missed four of the final five regular-season games with a sore left knee.
Kerr went with his best defensive unit.
“I thought it was important to re-establish our defense, one way or another, win or lose,” Kerr said. “That’s the reason this is a championship team. It’s the defense that has been the key for this team for years.”
76ERS 130, HEAT 103
PHILADELPHIA — Ben Simmons had 17 points, 14 assists and nine rebounds in his playoff debut, and Philadelphia romped again without Joel Embiid, beating Miami for its 17th straight win.
Embiid was a spectator in Game 1 of the first-round series because of a broken orbital bone around his left eye. The All-Star center has been hopeful he can return early in the series. The Sixers could end this one early with Embiid back in the lineup.
Simmons dished and dazzled in the paint and the Heat had no answer for Sixers reserves Marco Belinelli and Ersan Ilyasova. Belinelli and Ilyasova combined to hit four 3-pointers in the third quarter that helped shift the tone from physical and foul-filled to a long-distance game that allowed the Sixers to put away this one. They used a 15-0 run in the third in their first postseason game in five seasons under coach Brett Brown to get the rout rolling.
JJ Redick scored 28 points to lead the Sixers, who host Game 2 on Monday. Belinelli had 25 and Ilyasova 17.
RAPTORS 114, WIZARDS 106
TORONTO — Serge Ibaka had 23 points and 12 rebounds, Delon Wright scored 11 of his 18 points in the fourth quarter, and Toronto snapped a 10-game losing streak in playoff series openers by beating Washington.
DeMar DeRozan added 17 points, C.J. Miles and OG Anunoby each had 12, and Kyle Lowry had 11 points and nine assists for the Raptors, whose only previous victory in the opening game of a playoff series came in the second round against Philadelphia in 2001.
Toronto entered having lost an NBA-worst 10 consecutive Game 1s since, including six at home.
The top-seeded team in the Eastern Conference, Toronto made 16 of 30 3-point attempts, with Miles making four, and Ibaka and Wright each hitting three.
The Raptors host Game 2 on Tuesday.
John Wall had 23 points and 15 assists for the Wizards, while Markieff Morris had 22 points and 11 rebounds.
PELICANS 97, TRAIL BLAZERS 95
PORTLAND, Ore. — Anthony Davis had 35 points, 14 rebounds and four blocks, and New Orleans beat Portland in Game 1 of their playoff series.
Jrue Holiday added 21 points, outplaying both Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum, and had a big blocked shot in the closing seconds as New Orleans held on after Portland erased almost all of a 19-point deficit.
Rajon Rondo finished with 17 assists, eight rebounds and six points as New Orleans won the backcourt battle on top of Davis dominating the interior.
Lillard finished with 18 points, seven rebounds and seven assists while McCollum had 19 points.
The sixth-seeded Pelicans were the only road team to win on the opening day of the NBA playoffs. Nikola Mirotic had 16 points, 11 rebounds and also blocked four shots to help Davis earn the first victory of his playoff career.