The revolutionary Golden State Warriors defeated Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks by embracing old-school ball


The revolutionary Golden State Warriors defeated Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks by embracing old-school ball

SAN FRANCISCO — Something has dawned on Stephen Curry as the Golden State Warriors stage their first legitimate title chase in almost three years: He’s the old man now.

“When I look at some of these guys, it reminds you how young they are,” Curry said, gazing at the NBA starscape as the Warriors prepared for the Mavericks’ arrival in San Francisco. “Jayson Tatum is 24. Luka [Doncic] is 23. Yes [Morant] was 22. That’s the only part where you’re just like, ‘Damn, they really are that young.’ You think about what you were doing at that age trying to get into that scene and [play] playoff basketball.”

The NBA has long been a gerontocracy, a league ruled by the revered veterans who train — and sometimes torment — the upstarts before they surrender the glory. Few NBA stars have lifted a championship trophy to their early heyday over the past few decades — and certainly not without much help. Doncic plans to speed up his route at the expense of Curry, America’s longtime favorite brother who rose to Elder Statesman in the blink of an eye at 34.

The Warriors’ 112-87 Game 1 win over the Dallas Mavericks Wednesday night at the Chase Center was a timely reminder that championships are still the greatest source of inspiration in the NBA. Despite being defended by Reggie Bullock, the Mavericks’ toughest defender, occasionally blitzed by a second defender, aimed on Doncic’s pick-and-roll attack, and unusually inaccurate from the free-throw line, Curry displayed the composure and ease of a veteran player throughout in his element. He led all players in points (21), rebounds (12) and assists (four, level with four others) in Game 1 of these Western Conference finals, the first time in his playoff career that he has done so in all three categories got to ESPN Stats & Information data.

“We feel super comfortable on this stage,” said Curry. “There’s more gratitude to be back and more urgency not to miss the opportunity. Who knows how it turns out, but I’m enjoying every bit of it. I know Clay [Thompson] it is, and I know Draymond [Green] is because we haven’t played any significant games at this time of year for two years. It’s something special.”

The win wasn’t curry, nor was the Warriors’ most artful display of their trademark style. They were in an early rush, and there were few classic clips of their patented split cut for the vault. Still, there were plenty of times the Warriors demonstrated the telepathy that comes with continuity, moments when Green’s assist defense erased a high-percentage Dallas shot attempt or Curry moved out of trouble thanks to a Kevon Looney pindown. The Warriors spent much of the night interplaying against a Mavericks team that prefers to let Doncic tear apart possession on half court. The Warriors made life difficult for Doncic in his first appearance in the Conference Finals, thanks to tenacious defensive work from Andrew Wiggins.

The series opener was also a statement of how influential Golden State has been in shaping the trends that will define NBA basketball around 2022. The Warriors beat a Dallas squad that tried 19 more shots than they did from beyond the arc and engaged in a 5-out scheme much of the night to maximize distance, a practice mastered by the Warriors throughout their Dynasty run. Meanwhile, the Warriors relied on a lanky, limited-range center to bolster their center defenses and rebounds, and they fired twice as many shots from long middle range than they did on the perimeter.

For a team that revolutionized the league in the 2010s, Golden State looked positively like Jurassic — and dead effective.

“Teams kind of get us off the 3-point line,” Thompson said. “This season — [coach] steve [Kerr] always harp on it – that midrange jump will be there. Andrew, Steph and I [Jordan Poole]it really worked for us tonight.”

It is not uncommon for even the most fervent idealists to embrace pragmatism in middle age. During their rise to greatness, the Warriors broke the rules of conventional NBA basketball, rewrote some others, and established some new ones. Now, after three years in the wild, while nursing injuries and losing key contributors, the team has adopted a combination of Warriors home-grown wisdom and practical magic.

The Warriors are fully aware that while Dallas may not repeat the hot shootouts it unleashed on the Phoenix Suns last week, the Mavs are unlikely to miss more than three-fourths of their long-range attempts this series either .

For his part, Curry, who graduated from Davidson College last weekend, seems delighted to be both a mentor and a rival to a new class of NBA stars. A relatively late bloomer, Curry marveled at Morant’s work and leadership during the Warriors Series win over the Memphis Grizzlies in the Conference Semifinals. Curry also conceded that fending off the Grizzlies’ young virtuoso in the future will not be easy.

But age also increases self-confidence. It tells a man who has won three rings, two MVP awards and changed the way the NBA plays basketball that he can trust his instincts unconditionally. Age also reminds Curry that the clock is ticking.

“I’m not trying to claim the ‘age’ label,” Curry said ahead of Game 1. “But we’re just as hungry as they are to get it done.”

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