OAKLAND, Calif. â€” Stephen Curry pulled off a razzle-dazzle spin move right around big Rudy Gobert at the perimeter, went in for a layup and raised his hands, begging the sellout crowd to do its thing.
The Golden State Warriors sure did theirs, using that up-tempo, pass-happy style to run right by the Utah Jazz in Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinals.
Curry scored 22 points in three quarters of work and the top-seeded Warriors warmed up in a hurry after a weeklong layoff between playoff games, beating the Jazz 106-94 on Tuesday night.
“I’ll keep enjoying it. I feel like I have one of the better seats in the house and I’m not even paying for it,” fill-in Warriors head coach Mike Brown said when asked about Curry’s slick moves.
Draymond Green scored Golden State’s first six points of the fourth quarter and wound up with 17 points, eight rebounds, six assists and two more blocks to bring his remarkable five-game playoff swat total to 19.
Kevin Durant added 17 points on an uncharacteristically cold shooting night at 7 for 17 and had five rebounds and five assists. He missed the middle two games against Portland because of a strained left calf then returned for 20 minutes in Game 4. Zaza Pachulia scored 10 points in 14 minutes.
Gobert had 13 points, eight rebounds, two blocks and a Flagrant 1 foul on Green in the fourth for the Jazz, who just finished off the Clippers in a seven-game series Sunday while the Warriors waited after eliminating Portland in a sweep April 24.
“We picked up right where we left off,” Curry said. “We weren’t clicking making shots early on but our defence really gave us an opportunity to find that flow, and that’s what you need in the playoffs.”
Game 2 in the best-of-seven series is Thursday night back at Oracle Arena, where it was a night of nostalgia as Golden State honoured its 2007 “We Believe” team that ended a 13-year playoff drought and stunned Dallas in the first round.
Green insisted it might take the Warriors a quarter or so to find their rhythm as they finally got to play again. They weren’t sharp from 3-point range while going 7 for 29, with Klay Thompson making three of those on the way to 15 points.
The methodical, slow-you-down Jazz team making its first playoff appearance in five years couldn’t keep pace in transition.
“If you have those moments where you’re not urgent enough, they just punish you for it,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder said.
The Warriors outscored the Jazz 29-6 on the break and committed only seven turnovers, matching a franchise playoff-low.
“They’re a fast-breaking team and we’re basically not,” Utah’s Joe Johnson said.
Brown guided the Warriors as they are missing reigning NBA Coach of the Year Steve Kerr, who wasn’t at the arena as he deals with complications from two back surgeries nearly two years ago. He also missed the last two games of the Portland series.
How fitting much of the “We Believe” team was in the house one day shy of the 10-year anniversary of eighth-seeded Golden State’s first-round upset of the No. 1 seed Mavericks.
“We all had something to prove. We believed in each other and we wanted each other to prove people wrong,” Stephen Jackson said, then added of the current Warriors, “They’re way past believin’.”
After that, it was Jazz-Warriors in the Western Conference semifinals and Utah won in five games. Current Warriors forward Matt Barnes was part of that team, and he checked in with four minutes remaining to a rousing ovation after being sidelined since April 8 with a sprained right foot and bone bruise.
Jazz: F Derrick Favours, who was questionable with lower back soreness, came in late in the first. … Utah missed its initial six shots and fell behind 9-0 before Gobert’s three-point play at the 7:48 mark of the first. … The Jazz held a 44-37 rebounding advantage.
Warriors: Golden State never trailed and all five starters scored in double digits for the second straight playoff game. … Curry’s third-quarter steal broke Rick Barry’s record (105) for most in the post-season by a Warriors player. … Curry also hit his 262nd career post-season 3-pointer, moving past Robert Horry for ninth place on the NBA’s all-time list. … Shaun Livingston, who sprained his right index finger in Game 1 against the Trail Blazers, made a pretty pass to Andre Iguodala for a first-quarter dunk and grabbed at his tender hand afterward. But he played 20 minutes.
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Janie McCauley, The Associated Press