BY DANIEL GLUSKOTER
The two-time defending NBA Champion Golden State Warriors returned to the Oracle court to grind out a 108-100 win over the Oklahoma City Thunder Tuesday night in their first meaningful game at home since Game 2 of The Finals against LeBron James and his former teammates with Cleveland.
Starting their quest to become the first team since the 2002 Lakers to three-peat, the Warriors were honored with a pre-game ceremony where they received their championship rings and saw their latest title banner raised in the rafters prior to the start of their final season in Oakland before moving across the Bay to the new Chase Center in Mission Bay.
Renewing their rivalry with the Thunder, which has intensified since the Warriors came back from a 3-1 deficit to win the 2016 Western Conference Finals, followed shortly by Kevin Durant leaving OKC to join Golden Sate as a free agent, the Warriors benefited from the absence of Russell Westbrook. Westbrook continues to recover from an arthroscopic surgery on his right knee that took place on September 12th.
Golden State jumped out to a 57-47 halftime lead, but the hot shooting of Paul George helped OKC take their first lead of the game midway thru the third quarter before the Warriors were able to right the ship. George led the Thunder with 27 points on the night. Dennis Schroder, in his first game with Oklahoma City since being traded in the off-season as part of the Carmelo Anthony deal with Atlanta, added 21.
The Warriors were paced by Steph Curry’s 32 points on 11-20 shooting with five three-pointers. Durant added 27. Damian Jones looked solid in his first start at center, scoring 12 on 6-7 shooting from the field, and Kevin Looney had his first career double-double, netting 10 points to go along with 10 rebounds. Draymond Green also grabbed 13 boards.
After the game, Warriors coach Steve Kerr acknowledged that is team is still getting in shape. “We didn’t look much like ourselves. It’s not surprising either. This year is different. We are going to have some room for growth, which I love. I didn’t think we’d be quite as sharp opening night as we will be in a few weeks because our defense has to take shape.”
For his part, Curry called receiving his third championship ring “an emotional night.” ”We played a solid game, nothing spectacular. We obviously want to celebrate the championship last year, getting the rings and watching the banner drop. And obviously, we have to turn the page quickly. We had a lot of mistakes. We have a lot of things to work on, both offensively and defensively, but a win is a win.”
The Warriors return to the court Friday night in Salt Lake City before moving on to Denver t9 face the Nuggets on Sunday.