OAKLAND — Strutting backwards down the far sideline, Golden State Warriors point guard Stephen Curry basked in the adulation of the Oracle Arena crowd.
After securing an offensive board, creating an open shot and drilling a 27-foot 3-pointer, Curry did just about everything before giving the Warriors a 96-79 lead with just over a minute to play in the third quarter.
In the opening game of the Warriors’ first-round playoff series against the Los Angeles Clippers, Curry made history en route to an all-around performance that saw him score 38 points, pull down a postseason career-high 15 rebounds and dish out seven assists. In Golden State’s 121-104 win over Los Angeles, Curry was everything Clippers coach Doc Rivers expected, and more.
“I think Steph Curry is one of the most underrated players in the NBA,” Rivers said. “I don’t even know how that happens, but he is. He’s taken for granted.”
Curry didn’t begin his night looking to be the offensive focal point that Golden State would wind up needing. Instead, the 10-year veteran looked to facilitate as six assists in the first quarter allowed the Warriors to score 36 points in the first period. The beneficiary of of half of those dishes was Warriors forward Draymond Green, who scored 13 points in the first half.
“Game 1’s are always interesting because it’s a feeling out process,” Curry said. “We can’t force stuff but for the most part, it was taking what the defense gives me.”
From the jump, Los Angeles seemingly dared Green to beat them with his jump shot by leaving the Michigan State product wide open on the perimeter. Green responded by drilling both of his attempted 3-pointers.
“Yeah, my shit’s working now,” Green said after the game. “I love this time of the year. My shit work now.”
Green finished the first quarter 5-for-5 from the floor, including a highly-contested layup, during which Green was able to draw the foul. Flexing both arms to the crowd, Green’s finish brought the sell-out Oracle Arena crowd to its feet.
Scoring 17 points on 7-of-10 shooting while dishing out seven assists of his own and snagging six rebounds, Green, like Curry, was everywhere for Golden State.
“He was so competitive and emotional. And that’s why he made brilliant plays.,” Kerr said. “He was playing so hard and that’s what makes Draymond who he is.”
In the first quarter, Green and Curry’s play helped cancel out Clippers reserves Montrezl Harrell and Lou Williams, who combined for 17 of Los Angeles’ 27 points in the opening period.
Harrell and Williams finished the first half with 22 and 15, respectively, as the pair became the bulk of the Clippers’ offense as three of Los Angeles’ starters failed to score a single point by halftime.
In the final 3:21 of the first half, Curry scored 14 points on 4-of-4 shooting, including a pair of 27-foot 3-pointers.
Feeling the energy inside of a racus Oracle Arena, Curry signaled to the fans to rise to their feet after Clippers forward Danilo Gallinari was called for a technical foul with 37 seconds remaining in the half.
“I expect it at this point,” Warriors forward Kevin Durant said. “I expect him to come out and shoot well every night because he puts the work in… He’s an MVP.”
The Oracle crowd agreed, showered Curry with MVP chants as he walked to the free throw line before the break.
In the third quarter, Curry scored 10 points in 11 minutes. Four minutes into the quarter, coming off of a missed 3-point attempt from Warriors center DeMarcus Cousins —who played in the first playoff game of his career on Saturday — Curry snagged the rebound and set up his shot of the night.
After boxing out Clippers forwards Shai Gilgeous-Alexander for the board, Curry took the rookie on a ride, crossing him over and stepping back for a high-arching triple that hit nothing but net.
As Curry turned down court to get back on defense, he took a second to nod his head, swing his hips and high-step down the sideline opposite of either team’s bench, taking in the moment of deafening joy from Oracle.
With two more threes in the fourth, Curry also became the all-time leader in made 3-pointers in NBA postseason history. With a grand total of 386 made triples, he passed former Celtics and Heat sharpshooter Ray Allen, who previously held the record with 385 made 3-point attempts. Allen was 39 when he set the record. Curry is just 31.
“Definitely honored and grateful,” Curry said. “I always joke, though: I shoot a lot of threes; I better make a lot of them.”
As Curry helped finish the job against the Clippers, Los Angeles’ frustrations would boil over in the fourth quarter, as both Durant and Clippers guard Patrick Beverley were ejected following a verbal altercation in front of the scorers table.
The incident directly followed a play in which Beverley undercut Durant on a dunk attempt to which both players were assessed a technical foul.
After Durant fouled Beverley on the ensuing Los Angeles possession, the Clippers defensive hound stepped up into Durant’s face.
“I’ve been playing with Pat Beverley since he was at Arkansas so I kind of know what he brings,” Durant said. “He’s a Chicago kid, grew up and played in the Chicago area, so those dudes just play with a different type of grit, so I can appreciate that about Pat.
“That’s his identity, and they support him with the Clippers. For me, I know that coming into the series. I thought it was fun tonight.”
For the rest of the Warriors, including Curry, their fun came in handing Los Angeles a Game 1 loss after dominating them for the rest of the fourth. The one blemish on the effort was Golden State’s 21 turnovers, which Kerr said required more concentration and focus to fix. That said, the Warriors also had 31 assists on 45 field goals.
“Over the course of 48 minutes, the way we played, shared the ball, continued to move bodies and stuff like that and looked for each other, it’s kind of hard to key in on us the entire game,” Curry said. “We’ve got to take advantage of that.”