Stephen Curry made sure nobody forgot he is the NBA’s current MVP with an impressive opening night. There’s little chance the Houston Rockets have let it slip their minds.
After opening this season the way he finished the last, Curry and the Golden State Warriors visit Houston on Friday night looking to remind the Rockets why they’re the defending champions.
It was about five months ago when Curry averaged 31.2 points to oust Houston from the Western Conference finals on the way to ending Golden State’s 30-year title drought.
Curry picked up right where he left off in Tuesday’s season opener, scoring 40 points in a 111-95 victory over New Orleans. It was the second-highest point total by a reigning MVP in an opener since 1963-64, short of only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s 41 on Oct. 13, 1972.
Curry shot 14 of 26 and went 5 of 12 from 3-point range in his 13th career 40-point game, including the postseason. One of those playoff games came when he torched Houston for 40 on May 23 in a 115-80 blowout in Game 3 at Toyota Center.
Golden State won eight of nine against Houston last season, including the five-game playoff series. The lone loss was a 128-115 shootout in Game 4 at Houston. The Warriors scored 115 or more points four times against the Rockets and less than 100 twice – and they just missed with 99 and 98 in those games.
"Obviously, we had great success against them last year," said Curry, "But that’s because we were focused every single night to the game plan and sticking to it."
Already playing without coach Steve Kerr, who is resting his surgically repaired back, the Warriors might be without another major contributor. Andrew Bogut left the opener with a concussion after taking an arm to the head, and he won’t return until he is symptom-free and passes the NBA concussion protocol.
Bogut, who hit all six of his shots and finished with 12 points, five rebounds and five assists against the Pelicans, played a big part in holding Dwight Howard to 14.8 points in seven games last season.
Bogut and Howard played a chippy series in the post that led to a hard Howard screen on Andre Iguodala in Game 5. In turn, Howard was given his fourth flagrant foul of the postseason and a suspension for Wednesday’s season opener.
The Rockets missed him while suffering a 105-85 home loss to a Denver team not expected to make any waves this season. James Harden, who finished second to Curry in last season’s MVP voting, scored a team-high 22 points, but he shot just 6 of 21 and 2 of 12 from 3-point range. Harden averaged 27.0 points against the Warriors last season.
Ty Lawson had 12 points and six assists in his first game with the Rockets, though he made just 3 of 10 shots.
"We can’t worry about what wasn’t brought in Game 1," Howard said. "That’s over with. There’s no need to focus on that anymore."
Coach Kevin McHale, though, would like his team to improve on its 34.5 field goal percentage.
"The big thing, we didn’t have any push, we didn’t have any pace," McHale said. "We’ve got a lot of work to do to get ourselves working in the right direction."