OAKLAND, Calif. — The Golden State Warriors went big in the lineup, and in their first playoff game in defense of their NBA championship, went big on the scoreboard.
With 6-6 Andre Iguodala at guard in place of the injured Steph Curry, the Warriors controlled the ball and the boards and overwhelmed the Spurs, 113-92, in the opener of their Western Conference first-round series Saturday. They outrebounded San Antonio 51-30.
“They had more grunt,” said Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, who never is without candor or sarcasm. “The first quarter, we looked like deer in the headlights.”
At 6-6, Spurs forward Danny Green seemed physically ill-equipped to defend the 6-10 Kevin Durant, who had 24 points, eight rebounds and seven assists. Klay Thompson led Golden State with 27 points.
“Didn’t work very well,” Popovich said. “We’ll have Danny grow four or five inches by Monday [Game 2], tell him to jump higher and move quicker, and we’ll tell Kevin, ‘Don’t be so good.’ ”
“Good’’ was a word Green also used to describe Durant, who scored 11 points in the first quarter to help recharge a Warriors team that was without All-Stars Curry and Thompson for parts of the last month of the regular season.
“He was very good,” said Green, a North Babylon product. “As far as our start, we seemed a little rushed.”
Rudy Gay scored 15 points for the Spurs.
“We finally got back to defending the way we have, the way this team has for many years, even before I got here,” said Steve Kerr, in his fourth season as the Warriors’ coach.
“You know they were one of the top five defensive teams in the league. So you have to be able to count on that foundation, and I thought our defense was great and set the tempo.’’
Of his decision to start Iguodala, who usually plays forward, Kerr said, “I just wanted to put our best defensive lineup on the floor from the beginning. I think the whole point of these games early in the series is to establish our defense.
“I think you guys know, over the last month or so, our defense has been subpar. You can’t win in this league in the playoffs unless you defend.”
Iguodala, 34, was the ninth overall pick in the 2004 draft and joined the Warriors for the 2013-14 season. He was a member of the 2012 Olympic team and MVP of the 2014 NBA Finals.
Asked if this was a statement game, Iguodala (four points, seven rebounds, four assists) said, “Well, we’re in the playoffs. Every game is. You have to be focused. I think we’ve got a lot of experience in the playoffs.”
Golden State’s depth proved too much for San Antonio.
“We think that Andre being in the starting lineup, being able to switch so many things also helped,” Durant said. “We’ve kind of gotten away from it this season a little bit, but to get back to it tonight made a big difference. We focused on trying to win every possession on the defensive side.”