Clippers To Be Challenged By High-Flying Warriors
(AP) — The Golden State Warriors finished first or second in the NBA in scoring in all four seasons during Don Nelson’s second stint as coach.
Based on the team’s first game with Keith Smart in charge, that doesn’t look like it’s about to change.
Monta Ellis and Stephen Curry had the Warriors’ run-and-gun style looking effective in Smart’s debut, a high-scoring performance they’ll look to build on against the visiting Los Angeles Clippers on Friday night.
Golden State averaged 108.7 points over the past four seasons, but Smart promised a team that focused more on defense and rebounding after spending the past seven years as an assistant.
That may eventually happen, but the Warriors’ style didn’t look much different in the club’s opener against Houston on Wednesday night. Ellis tied a career high with 46 points while Curry added 25 points and 11 assists in a 132-128 win.
“We’ve been going through preseason and training camp for this moment right here,” Ellis said after making 18 of 24 shots. “To get the first win to start the season off in the right direction says a lot.”
While Smart may have envisioned a better defensive performance, he had to like his team’s effort on the boards. Golden State’s minus-9.7 rebound differential last season was the worst in the league by nearly five per game, but the Warriors outrebounded the Rockets 45-39 behind a team-high 15 from offseason acquisition David Lee.
The Clippers weren’t nearly as successful in Vinny Del Negro’s debut on the sidelines, blowing a four-point fourth-quarter lead against Portland in a 98-88 defeat Wednesday.
The night wasn’t a total loss for Los Angeles. Blake Griffin, the 2009 No. 1 overall pick who missed last season with a knee injury, had 20 points and 14 rebounds in his debut.
“In some areas I did well, but there’s a lot of room for improvement,” Griffin said. “It was a sigh of relief that I made it back, but I don’t want to make this game bigger than it is. It is a first game, not a live-or-die situation.”
Despite Griffin’s effort, the Clippers were outrebounded 51-41, giving up 21 offensive boards.
Los Angeles also struggled from the perimeter, resembling the team that shot a Western Conference-worst 33.2 percent from beyond the arc in 2009-10. The Clippers were 5 of 18 on 3-pointers and managed 19 points outside the paint Wednesday.
Ellis faced Los Angeles only once last season as the teams split four games, but Curry made up for the absence of his teammate. He averaged 27.7 points in the three games Ellis missed, highlighted by 36 points, 13 assists and 10 rebounds in a 132-102 home win Feb. 10.
Nineteen of Curry’s points Wednesday came after halftime, even though he tweaked the right ankle sprain that kept him out of the final preseason game.
It’s not expected to limit him Friday.
“He’s a smart player, he’s going to figure stuff out,” Smart said. “I have to keep him actively engaged in the game and not settle for being a passer, because there is so much he can do for the team.”
Lee averaged 27.0 points in two games against the Clippers last season with New York.
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