He was the MVP, he was an NBA champion, he broke the all-time record for made threes (which he had set himself), made the All-Star team, won the three-point shootout and now 4 1/2 months later, this was probably to be expected.
Few things are quite as arresting as Stephen Curry in rhythm, and after the Warriors star had slipped on his championship ring, addressed the crowd and posed for the cameras, his summer off manifested in an explosive first-quarter performance Tuesday night. There was no lull from watching Golden State’s first NBA championship banner in 40 years go up in the rafters. Curry wasted no time setting the tone for Golden State’s second title climb with the hottest start of his career, pouring in a career-high 24 first-quarter points on 9-for-13 shooting and 4-for-7 from three on the way to a 111–95 win over Anthony Davis and the upstart, banged-up Pelicans.
Though Curry’s pace cooled from there, he was spellbinding as he scythed through the New Orleans defense, whipping passes and finding cracks, hoisting threes and celebrating before the ball found the net. It was the most points for any player in the first quarter of a season opener in 20 years. Curry finished with 40 points, seven assists and six rebounds, and any talks of a championship hangover firmly quashed.
No other Warrior scored more than 13 points. Their familiar, up-and-down style took precedence. Even with head coach Steve Kerr watching from the locker room, recovering from back surgery, and former top assistant Alvin Gentry leading the other bench, these were the same guys and the same principles that led them to 67 wins. And their chemistry and personnel fits were made even more impressive in comparisons to their opponents, who were working to implement Gentry’s up-tempo philosophies without their three top ballhandlers. A healthy Jrue Holiday, Tyreke Evans and even Norris Cole will help move the Pelicans closer to their coach’s standard, but with just nine bodies fit to play, it was an uphill struggle. Davis shot 4 for 20, without an easy look at the basket. It will take time. The Warriors’ biggest advantage, perhaps even beyond a streaking Curry, is the continuity and understanding they share as a group.
But then again, Curry with fresh legs, a hot hand and in top form is pretty great, too. Here’s to 81 more games.