OAKLAND, US: The streaking Golden State Warriors shook off an ankle injury to superstar Stephen Curry to thrash the Houston Rockets 104-78 on Saturday (Sunday in Manila) in their NBA Western Conference playoff opener.
The reigning champion Warriors picked up where they left off in their record-setting 73-win regular-season campaign, bolting to a 33-15 lead through one quarter and carrying on relentlessly from there.
Reigning NBA Most Valuable Player Curry sent a tremor of tension through Oracle Arena when he twisted his right ankle defending Rockets star James Harden late in the second quarter.
Curry went to the locker room for treatment and played briefly early in the third period before coach Steve Kerr called a timeout and took him out of the contest.
Curry visited the locker room again, and though he returned to the bench for the fourth quarter he didn’t play again.
Kerr said he didn’t know the severity of the injury, calling Curry “questionable” for game two on Monday, saying he wouldn’t take chances with his star with the championship finals still a long way away in June.
Teammate Klay Thompson thought Kerr’s caution was overdone.
“He’ll be all right,” Thompson said of Curry. “We expect him out here on Monday.”
Curry inflicted significant damage before his departure. His 24 points included 16 in the first quarter.
In a rematch of last season’s Western Conference finals, Golden State harried Houston from tip-off, with frustrated Rockets point guard Patrick Beverly scuffling with Curry less than six minutes into the contest.
“That’s to be expected,” Kerr said. “It’s the playoffs. Both guys are competitive. Beverly is a good defender, that’s what he does, he tries to get under your skin. He’s just doing his job.”
The Warriors answered with two three-pointers from Curry in a 14-6 scoring run, limiting Houston to six-of-20 shooting in the opening frame.
The Warriors led 60-33 by halftime, and held Harden to four points before the break.
Harden, second to Curry in regular-season scoring with an average 29 points per game, perked up after the interval, hitting three three-pointers to finish with 17 points, but he didn’t get to the free-throw line once.
“Very satisfied,” Kerr said. “I thought our defense was excellent. We made them earn every point.”
Draymond Green, who had 12 points and 10 rebounds for the Warriors, received the third technical foul of the contest in the fourth quarter for pulling Rockets big man Donata Motiejunas down from behind.
“It’s the playoffs,” Kerr said again.
The winner of the best-of-seven series face either the Los Angeles Clippers or Portland Trail Blazers in the second round.
Western Conference action continued later Saturday with the third-seeded Oklahoma City Thunder hosting the Dallas Mavericks.
Second-seeded San Antonio launches their campaign on Sunday against the Memphis Grizzlies.