Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant accepted their championship rings Tuesday for leading Golden State to a third NBA title in four campaigns, then powered the Warriors over Oklahoma City 108-100 in their 2018-19 season opener.
Curry scored 32 points with nine assists and eight rebounds, while Durant had 27 points, eight rebounds and six assists as the Warriors held off a fourth-quarter fightback to make a triumphant launch to their quest for a third consecutive crown.
“The first game could go either way with timing and overall execution,” Curry said. “We had a terrible third quarter but we withstood the run and were able to get the job done.
“We’ve got to take care of the ball better. That will come with more possessions as we get through the season.
“We know what’s at stake. Winning three in a row would put us in some very select company. We’re not shy talking about it. But you have to do the little things throughout the season. I think we’re ready for it.”
The first game of the NBA season was in Boston, where Jayson Tatum scored 23 points and grabbed nine rebounds while reserve Marcus Morris added 16 points and 10 rebounds as the host Celtics ripped Philadelphia 105-87.
But the night’s highlight came when NBA commissioner Adam Silver handed out championship jewellery – Golden State’s Steve Kerr taking his fourth as a coach to go with four he won as a player – and praised the Warriors dynasty for far more than on-court skills.
“The Warriors have a tradition of excellence based on universal values like teamwork, respect and unity,” NBA commissioner Adam Silver said.
“They continue a long legacy of NBA players and teams who compete for something bigger than a game by embracing the power of sport to build bridges and make better people’s lives.”
Then came the final championship banner raising at Oracle Arena, the NBA’s oldest arena, built in 1966. The Warriors will move to a new arena in San Francisco next season.
“Last year was an unbelievable journey,” Curry told the crowd. “We do all this for you guys. So let’s enjoy this all to the fullest.”
Curry scored 19 points in the first half, helping the Warriors seize a 57-47 half-time edge, but the Thunder opened the third quarter with a 22-9 run to seize their first lead at 69-66, German guard Dennis Schroder sinking the go-ahead 3-pointer for Oklahoma City.
The Thunder battled Golden State to the finish, a free throw by New Zealand’s Steven Adams pulling Oklahoma City within 99-97 with 1:57 remaining.
Curry answered with a 3-point play and Kevon Looney added a layup for a 104-99 Warriors edge. Durant followed with an inside jumper with 24 seconds remaining to seal his former club’s fate.
The Thunder were without star guard Russell Westbrook, who has not been cleared to return after undergoing arthroscopic right knee surgery last month.
Paul George led Oklahoma City with 27 points while Schroder added 21 and Adams had 17 points and 11 rebounds.
Hayward back in Boston
At Boston, Gordon Hayward contributed 10 points on 4-of-10 shooting with four steals in his return after breaking his left leg in last year’s season opener.
“A lot to work on for me but the joy of being out here was amazing,” said Hayward. “It was so good to be out there, such a blessing I was able to play basketball again.”
Hayward was greeted by a standing ovation from the crowd when he left the game in the final seconds.
Tatum had 13 points in the first half for the Celtics, who took advantage of injuries last season to have a stellar rookie NBA campaign.
“I’m a lot more sure of myself and confident and just relaxed,” he said. “It’s my second year. I knew what to expect. I was just happy to get back on the floor.”
Boston’s Kyrie Irving, whose prior season ended early with leg injuries, made only 2-of-14 from the floor for seven points but added seven assists.
Joel Embiid scored 23 points and grabbed 10 rebounds to lead the 76ers while Australian guard Ben Simmons, last season’s NBA Rookie of the Year, contributed 19 points, a game-high 15 rebounds, eight assists, four steals and two blocked shots.