OAKLAND — By the time Jay-Z and Beyonce took their courtside seats in the second quarter, the Golden State Warriors game against the San Antonio Spurs was well en route to being a blowout.
And not the kind that defined the Dubs’ run to an NBA-best 73 wins a season prior. No, in the debut of Kevin Durant, it was Kawhi Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge of the Spurs who stole the show.
Leonard scored a career-high 35 points and Aldridge had his way all over the court, logging 26 points and 14 rebounds. Gregg Popovich’s team would cruise to a 129-100 win in the season opener at Oracle Arena.
“I think the guys were embarrassed tonight, I know I was,” Warriors head coach Steve Kerr said after the game.
The Spurs outplayed the home team in all facets of the game — winning the rebound battle 55-35, scoring 10 more points at the free-throw line and outshooting the high-powered Dubs 50-21.2 percent on 3-pointers.
Golden State also struggled controlling the ball, coughing up 16 turnovers.
There were some positives to speak of. Stephen Curry looked to be over the ailment that slowed him in the 2016 playoffs, scoring 26 points on 9-for-18 shooting. He made three 3-pointers, but what was more encouraging was his ability to cross over his defender, get into the lane and either draw contact or finish at the rim.
Durant took to his new role right away, making his first four shots from the field and contributing eight rebounds and two emphatic blocks in the first half. He finished with 27 points, 10 boards and a pair of steals and blocks.
He took the ugly loss in stride.
“We can’t overreact, and what we can’t do is let these games pile up,” Durant said. “… It’s a slap in the face, and it woke us up a little bit.”
Ultimately, it was the team’s defensive failures that put Golden State in an early hole — built off a 13-2 to cap the first quarter — that it couldn’t later escape.
Finding the right combinations of players will remain a challenge for Kerr and his staff. Without Andrew Bogut, there was no rim protector to be found as the Spurs attacked and shot over new big man Zaza Pachulia with impunity. The Spurs outscored the Warriors, 16-4, in the first quarter when Pachulia was on the floor for nine of 12 possible minutes.
“That’s a great team, it’s a team that exposed some of our weaknesses,” Kerr said. “We cannot get out-rebounded like that, and lose the turnover battle and get beat at the free throw line. Those are things that are going to kill us.”
The W’s allowed more than 30 in each quarter and were exposed on the offensive glass, allowing 24 second-chance points. (For context, Golden State scored just four after an offensive rebound.)
That would indicate a lack of bigs that can play the traditional pivot position. Or, more likely, it will prove to be a mere bump in the road as the Warriors faced a prepared Popovich, one of the greatest NBA coaches of all time. The likely answer is somewhere in the middle, and Kerr will now get to work correcting his team’s path.
Luckily for him, he has plenty of time to do so.