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Curry, Dubs outduel Irving, Celtics in possible Finals preview

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Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (30) drives past Boston Celtics guard Kyrie Irving (11) as the Boston Celtics face the Golden State Warriors at Oracle Arena in Oakland, Calif., on Saturday, January 27, 2018.

The more things change, the more they stay the same. The constants: Death, taxes and Kyrie vs. Curry.

Saturday’s game was billed as the best in the West vs. the beast from the East — new age NBA final to break from the monotony of Warriors-Cavaliers. But it quickly devolved into something much more familiar — Stephen Curry vs. Kyrie Irving.

And while Irving brought everything he had, more than enough on most nights, it was Curry who was left standing as he led the Warriors (40-10) to a 109-105 victory over the Boston Celtics (35-15).

This story has been updated with quotes and post-game material from the Warriors’ locker room at Oracle Arena.

Curry dominated offensively, racking up 49 points on 16-of-24 shooting including eight 3-pointers. But it wasn’t easy as Irving made himself at home in Oracle Arena despite his jersey change.

The Boston All-Star came out humming with 19 points in the first half on what felt like an unstoppable 7-of-9 shooting.

Kevin Durant said it was crazy to watch the two point guards duel:

“Man, you just got to sit back and enjoy the show. Once they got it going you got to get out the way. You can tell both teams kind of felt that midway through the first. Kyrie got it cooking early and then Steph, you can tell it was a back-and-forth. But it wasn’t one of those back-and-forths were they hijack the game and play one-on-one, it was all within the flow.”

Irving’s hot hand coupled with the Celtics’ usual strangling defense left the Warriors sputtering on offense, settling for contested iso jumpers on every possession. And they didn’t just settle for them, they clanked them.

Namely Klay Thompson, who finished 3-of-12 from the field for seven points, and seemed content with taking every rushed fadeaway the Celtics gave him.

But a small tweak to the defense — doubling and trapping Irving whenever possible — made all the difference. Irving’s shot was still unconscious but he got much fewer actual attempts, managing just two shots in the third quarter against a blitzing Warriors defense.

Irving would finish with 37 points of his own on an unbelievable 17 shots, but came up just short in the end.

Curry said that it was definitely playoff intensity on the court:

“I would say it was a defensive battle pretty much the whole game. Guys making plays all over the court. It was a fun game, it was intense, it was hard-fought for all 48 minutes and this is kind of what you expect in the playoffs for sure.”

Durant poured in 20, and Draymond Green added 15 and 11 rebounds, but even with three other All-Stars on the court, anytime Curry didn’t have the ball in his hands felt like a letdown — and bad judgment.  That letdown didn’t make its way onto the scoreboard, as Curry scored 13 of the Warriors final 14 points to ice the game.

Green joked that Curry had a special night, but he’s seen better:

“We’ve seen him go off and there’s some bombs from half court, between-the-legs crossover behind-the-back step back falling away 3 that hits nothing but net. Like we’ve all seen that. I don’t think there was much of that, he just kind of took what the defense gave him. Obviously 49 is 49 but I’ve seen crazier. Unfortunately for him, I’m not that impressed by what he did tonight.”

The game had a Finals feel throughout, from the energy to the individual battles, it seems like only a matter of time before these two teams square off. The new Finals matchup everyone has been aching for.

But the more things change, the more they stay the same. At least in regards to the matchup of Curry and Irving.

Up next

The Warriors take off for a three-game road trip with their first stop in Utah to visit rookie highlight machine Donavan Mitchell and the Jazz (21-28) Tuesday.

Notes

Young bigman Damian Jones was recalled from the Santa Cruz Warriors before Saturday evenings game. Jones averaged 15.5 points, 8.2 rebounds and 2.1 blocks per game during his 31 games in the G-League. … Patrick McCaw missed his second consecutive game with a mid-back strain. The second-year guard is considered day-to-day going forward and may return sometime on their road trip.


Curtis Uemura is SFBay’s Golden State Warriors beat writer. Follow @SFBay and @CUemura on Twitter and at SFBay.ca for full coverage of Warriors basketball.

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