OAKLAND, Calif. — The Golden State Warriors displayed that familiar swagger, celebrated in front of the home crowd as they so love to do and got contributions on both ends of the floor from up and down the roster.
They were playing with the kind of joy coach Steve Kerr talks about when things just click.
“You see like the morale, like everybody’s shoulders are up and smiles, and just aggressiveness all over the floor,” Stephen Curry said. “Whether that’s setting a screen, swing or cutting hard, all that type of stuff. When you create good shots that way, it’s fun for everybody.”
And he means everybody.
Before the Western Conference finals began, Kerr told his team this series against Portland might allow for more guys to play key minutes and have opportunities for the two-time defending champs.
Golden State’s bench players provided the perfect complement to Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green in Game 1 as the Warriors withstood the absence of Kevin Durant for another impressive win. The Warriors lead the best-of-seven series 1-0 after beating the Trail Blazers 116-94 on Tuesday night.
“Strength in numbers has been the motto for this team, and it’s been proven over the last couple of years,” reserve guard Quinn Cook said Wednesday after contributing eight points and a pair of 3-pointers in the win. “Obviously, we have the star power. But I think what makes this team so special is the guys who don’t get the recognition who come in off the bench and who put the work in daily.”
Kerr reiterated that the Warriors expect to know more ahead of Game 2 at Oracle Arena on Thursday about whether Durant can return during this series once he is re-evaluated.
He has noted that until Durant can do significant on-court work to test the leg he will not be ready.
“It makes everything tougher for sure, when you lose a guy like Kevin,” Green said. “He’s important to things we do on both sides of the ball. But we also know one guy is not going to step in and make up for what Kevin brings up to the team, so it’s up to everybody to step their game up a couple notches, and for the last two games, we’ve done that.”
The Warriors certainly looked more like themselves with the crisp ball movement — leading to 30 assists — with almost everyone finding a way to contribute to the victory.
Curry had seven of those assists, Green and Andre Iguodala each had five while Thompson and reserve Jordan Bell dished out three apiece.
“It’s when we’re at our best in terms of everybody feeling like they are a threat on the floor,” Curry said. “I mean, honestly, even when K’s (Durant) out there, he’s our safety valve in terms of we can end a possession that way, but we try to get to those looks and those patterns as much as we can. It just puts so much pressure on the defense.”
The Trail Blazers studied the film and saw everything that went wrong: 21 turnovers that led to 31 Warriors points, the breakdowns on pick-and-rolls that allowed Curry to go off for 36 points and nine 3-pointers, the defense against Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum that made it so difficult to find an offensive flow.
The wide-open looks by Curry and Thompson much of the night might have hurt most.
“That’s the last thing we need if we want to have any chance to beat this team,” Lillard said of what he called “practice shots.” ”… I think we’ll be addressing a lot of things on both ends.”
Curry’s nine 3-pointers matched his most in the postseason, also accomplished in Game 1 of last year’s NBA Finals against Cleveland.
Portland coach Terry Stotts said the Blazers would “have to re-think” defending the Warriors on the perimeter.
“It was too easy for them, so we’ve got to make it more difficult,” McCollum said.
For Portland, shooting 36.1% isn’t going to cut it, either. Lillard and McCollum combined to go 11 for 31 from the floor — and none of the Blazers wanted to offer any excuses, though they had just been pushed to Game 7 in the last round. They finished up at Denver on Sunday before flying straight to the Bay Area. The Warriors had the weekend off and were well-rested ahead of the series opener.
Green and the Warriors expect much more from the Blazers.
“As the series goes on, it’s going to get tougher and tougher and that’s our understanding moving forward,” Green said. “We’ll need guys to continue stepping up when Kevin’s out, and also when he comes back, continue to play with that same aggressiveness.”