Los Angeles. Golden State Warriors began their quest for a three-peat by clobbering the Los Angeles Clippers, while the Brooklyn Nets and Orlando Magic delivered a pair of upset victories as the NBA playoffs began Saturday.
Stephen Curry drained eight three-pointers to give him the most in league playoff history as the two-time defending champion Warriors dominated the Clippers 121-104.
“We imposed our will for 48 minutes,” said Curry. “We have been working for the last month on our collective mindset, raising our intensity and focus.
“It might not be flashy but we all got to do our jobs.”
Curry finished with 38 points, shooting eight of 12 from beyond the arc to pass Ray Allen (385) for career postseason threes with 386.
One of his three-pointers was from a distance of about 30 feet. “Shout out to the contacts,” said Curry.(AFP)
Curry also tallied a playoff career-high 15 rebounds and seven assists.
“Curry has destroyed us all year,” said Clippers coach Doc Rivers.
Game two is Monday at the Warriors’ Oracle Arena in Oakland, California.
The Clippers and Golden State are meeting for just the second time in the playoffs after the Clippers took a seven-game series in 2014.
- Brooklyn bench shines -
Draymond Green, who made all five of his shots in the opening quarter, finished with 17 points and seven assists and Kevin Durant scored 23 points for Golden State who have won seven consecutive playoff games.
Durant and Patrick Beverley were ejected with 4:41 to go, just 19 seconds after they received double-technicals when Durant stripped Beverley and the Clippers guard stumbled to the sidelines.
Elsewhere, D’Angelo Russell scored 26 points as sixth-seeded Brooklyn jolted third-seeded Philadelphia 111-102 at the Wells Fargo Center to give the Nets a 1-0 lead in the best-of-seven series.
The Nets were also reliant on a big performance from their bench, with three players delivering double-digit displays to boost their offense.
Caris LeVert had 23 points while Spencer Dinwiddie added 18 and Ed Davis 12 as the Nets silenced the Sixers’ home Wells Fargo Center crowd.
The Sixers meanwhile saw Jimmy Butler lead the scoring with a playoff career high 36 points while ailing Joel Embiid had 22 points.
But it was a disappointing outing for Australian star Ben Simmons, who was restricted to just nine points for Philadelphia.
Embiid had been doubtful with left knee soreness and was cleared to play less than 10 minutes before the game. Embiid, who missed 14 of the team’s final 24 games, looked hampered by his injury.
- Booing fans lashed -
Afterwards Embiid expressed dismay at Sixers fans who booed the home team as they slid to a disappointing loss.
“The fact that it’s after every single miss,” he said. “Every missed shot, then you get booed. You get the next one and you think ‘Should I shoot it or not because I’m about to get booed?’”
But team-mate Simmons risked the wrath of Philadelphia’s support by lashing fans who booed.
“If you’re going to boo, then stay on that side,” Simmons said. “That’s how I feel, if you’re a Sixer fan and you’re going to boo then stay on that side.”
Butler however said the Sixers could only remedy the fan response by delivering a win in game two of the series in Philadelphia on Monday.
“I understand it. They want to see us win. I want to see us win, too,” Butler said. “We just gotta do better. I guarantee if we’re winning they’re not booing. That’s how we change it. Just got to go out there and win on Monday.”
In the day’s other Eastern Conference match-up, the second-seeded Raptors were left ruing missed chances after crashing to a 104-101 loss to Orlando at the Scotiabank Arena.
D.J. Augustin was the hero for Orlando, draining a three-pointer with 4.2 seconds to play to seal a famous win for the seventh-seeded Magic, who finished the regular season with 16 fewer wins than Toronto.
arcelona’s 11-point advantage over Atletico Madrid became nine on Saturday as Lionel Messi was left out of their goalless draw with Huesca and Gerard Pique watched on television with a bowl of prawns.
With Barca’s focus clearly on Manchester United, Messi and Pique were among 10 players rested for the stalemate at El Alcoraz as coach Ernesto Valverde prioritised Tuesday’s second leg and progress to the Champions League semi-finals.
The price was two points dropped and Atletico capitalised, beating Celta Vigo 2-0 thanks to a thundering Antoine Griezmann free-kick and a cool finish from Alvaro Morata. “Obviously we always want to win but it’s true this game came in slightly different circumstances,” Valverde said.
“It is an unusual week because we come from playing an intense match on Wednesday, when the trip was long, and we have the return on Tuesday.
“Considering the schedule and our advantage in the league, I thought it was time to make changes.”
Messi was left out of the squad completely while the suspended Pique posted a picture on social media of the match on television, in front of him a large bowl of seafood.
Barcelona’s huge advantage at the top of La Liga has afforded them the luxury of prioritising success in Europe, the only issue perhaps for Valverde the matter of maintaining momentum.
Overall, they were better than Huesca but never really got out of second gear.
Luis Suarez was also banned, with Sergio Busquets, Ivan Rakitic and Clement Lenglet given the chance to recuperate too ahead of the return against United at Camp Nou, where Barca will start with 1-0 lead from the first leg.
Ousmane Dembele’s chance of a start there would appear enhanced after he played 67 minutes following his recovery from a hamstring injury.
Malcom came closest to a winner, his shot hitting the post, but Huesca were good value for the draw and could even have snatched victory themselves in the second half.
Still bottom of the table in their first-ever season in Spain’s top flight, Huesca now sit five adrift of safety, albeit having played a game more than those immediately above them. Their survival bid remains unlikely but alive.
Celta’s defeat to Atletico means they are still in the scrap, two points separating them from the bottom three.
- Barca focused on Europe -
Dembele came closest to a goal in the first half after a brilliant reverse pass from the talented Riqui Puig, one of a number of youngsters given a chance to impress.
Another was Jean-Clair Todibo, who saw a header saved while Kevin-Prince Boateng, also handed a rare outing after his arrival in January, was unable to connect with a low Dembele cross.
Huesca had their moments as Enric Gallego burst through but shot wide and then he wanted a penalty after Marc-Andre ter Stegen slid through the back of his legs.
Malcom struck the post with a fizzing drive but despite Jordi Alba, Philippe Coutinho and Arthur Melo all coming on in the second half, Barca could not find a way through.
The onus was on Atletico to take advantage at the Wanda Metropolitano even if any chase, with six games left to play, will surely prove fruitless.
Griezmann’s free-kick flew into the top corner just before half-time and he then teed up Morata to make it two, the Spaniard carrying it around the goalkeeper for his seventh goal in 10 games.