Warriors wallop rusty Lakers

LOS ANGELES (AFP) — Stephen Curry scored 33 points as the Golden State Warriors launched the defense of their National Basketball Association crown with a season-opening 123-109 rout of the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday.

After being presented with diamond-encrusted rings and watching their championship banner being hoisted at a pre-game ceremony at San Francisco’s Chase Center, the Warriors put on a dazzling performance to overpower LeBron James and the new-look Lakers.

The Warriors’ pre-season had been overshadowed by a practice court bust-up that saw Draymond Green floor teammate Jordan Poole with a sucker punch — sparking what coach Steve Kerr described as the “biggest crisis” of his eight-year reign.

But Golden State served notice they have already put the episode behind them with a commanding performance that suggests they are more than capable of mounting a successful title defense.

Significantly, Green and Poole played without any hint of lingering tension, notably when Poole engineered a lay-up for Green with a clever pass midway through the third quarter.

The Lakers, in their first competitive game under new coach Darvin Ham, meanwhile, showed signs of being a more disciplined defensive unit, but ultimately were run ragged by the Warriors.

The 37-year-old James weighed in with 31 points while Anthony Davis contributed 27 points with Russell Westbrook adding 19.

But the Warriors were never seriously threatened after a trademark third-quarter eruption, outscoring the Lakers 32-19 to race to a 27-point lead at one stage.

“The ceremony was an amazing celebration, to take time to reflect on what you accomplished, watching the banner go up, looking at the highlight tapes and all that,” Curry said afterward.

“It’s really hard to turn the page and go and play a game of basketball, but we figured how to do it. Now we can look forward to the rest of the year.”

In Tuesday’s other opening night game, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown scored 35 points each as the Boston Celtics brushed off their pre-season woes with a 126-117 home win over the Philadelphia 76ers.

Tatum, roundly criticized after a series of disappointing performances in Boston’s NBA Finals defeat to Golden State last season, led from the front in a dazzling display at the TD Garden.

The 24-year-old Tatum went 13-of-20 from the field while Brown’s 35-point salvo came on 14-of-24 shooting with four three-pointers.

Malcolm Brogdon (16 points), Grant Williams (15) and defensive linchpin Marcus Smart (14) also hit double figures as the Celtics handed interim head coach Joe Mazzulla the first win of his reign.

Mazzulla only took over as head coach last month after the stunning season-long suspension of Ime Udoka.

Udoka, one of the NBA’s rising coaching stars, was banned for the entire 2022-2023 campaign after details emerged of an improper relationship with a female member of the Celtics staff.

But while the scandal upended the Celtics’ pre-season preparations, there was no sign of it affecting Boston on Tuesday as the new campaign got under way with an emphatic win over a team expected to be one of their main Eastern Conference rivals.

After the Sixers started brightly to lead 29-24 at the end of the first quarter, Boston roared back to level it at 63-63 at halftime.

The Celtics then pulled away late in the third quarter with Smart punishing a sloppy Joel Embiid turnover to make it 87-78 before a Tatum three-pointer gave the team a 12-point cushion.

The Celtics held onto the lead for the remainder of the game, pushing 16 points ahead later in the fourth before comfortably closing out the win.

James Harden led the Sixers scorers with 35 points, while Embiid added 26 and Tyrese Maxey 21.

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