OAKLAND — The Warriors didn’t find the switch. They found a nuclear generator.
They had played poorly coming into this first-round playoff series against the San Antonio Spurs, had lost 10 of their past 17 games. People wondered if they could simply turn it on for the playoffs.
They turned it on.
The Warriors were weapons-grade plutonium Saturday afternoon at Oracle Arena. Klay Thompson scored 27 points on 11 of 13 shots, Kevin Durant had 24 points, 8 rebounds and 7 assists, and the Warriors won 113-92. Won with the defense people thought they had, and with Durant, the best player in the game when Stephen Curry isn’t playing.
Now, the Warriors lead the best-of-seven series 1-0.
“We finally got back to defending the way this team has for many years, even before I got here,” head coach Steve Kerr said. “You have to be able to count on that foundation, and I thought our defense was great, and that set the tone.”
The tone-setter was Draymond Green, as usual. “We’re a championship ballclub,” said Green, who finished with 12 points, 8 rebounds, 11 assists and 2 steals. “Regardless of what everyone is saying — ‘The Warriors have lost it,’ ‘They’re not together,’ ‘They can’t win without Steph,’ ‘They’re not the same team,’ blahzay blahzay blahzay blah blah blah — we know what we’re capable of.
“There have been games we have won without Steph. Same with Kevin. We have won games without myself. We have won games without Klay. We have won games without our head coach. We’re primed for this. A lot of people have forgotten what we’re capable of. We know, and we’re going to show that.”
On Saturday, the Warriors were missing their best player and floor leader — Curry. He suffered a Grade 2 MCL sprain on March 23 and missed the final 10 regular-season games.
Saturday morning, the Warriors announced the team’s medical staff re-evaluated Curry on Friday, and “the examination indicated that Stephen has made steady functional progress since the injury. As a result, he will intensify his on-court rehabilitation in the coming days, which will include more running and lateral movement. He will be re-evaluated again in one week.”
Meaning the Warriors will examine Curry’s knee on Saturday, April 21 — the day before Game 4 in San Antonio. Meaning he might play in Game 4 if his knee passes the examination and if the Warriors need him. Which they probably won’t, judging from Game 1. But they could have options.
The Spurs were missing their best player, too — Kawhi Leonard. He didn’t play or even travel with the team to Oakland. He was in New York. Leonard missed all but nine games this season recovering from tendinopathy in his right quadriceps, and the Spurs haven’t said if or when he will return for this series. The Warriors expect he will not return. His status is a mystery to the Warriors and maybe to the Spurs as well.
Before the game, the Warriors’ starting lineup was another mystery. When they revealed the lineup, it contained surprises: JaVale McGee was the starting center, and Andre Iguodala was the starting point guard, along with the usual starters — Durant, Thompson and Green.
State athletic trainer licensing proposal