By Morris Phillips
The Warriors had that look again on Monday night in Atlanta, and Stephen Curry ascended to the superstar zone first, soon after he shook the hand of Trae Young, his sharpshooter protege, prior to the opening tip.
Curry put up 18 of his game-best 30 points in the first quarter, single-handedly outscoring the Hawks in the frame, as the Warriors posted a momentum-changing 128-111 win.
“We controlled the tempo in the first quarter, the defense kicked in, and that set the tone,” Curry said.
Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson soon joined Curry as all three hit show-off mode at some juncture of the evening. The Warriors’ stars all had 10 made baskets, with Durant finishing with 28 points, and Thompson 27.
Young didn’t fare well facing Curry for the first time. The rookie from Oklahoma forced some passes and never found his shooting stroke. Young finished with 20 points, but need 20 shot attempts to get there, while committing seven turnovers (all on the first half) and failing to make a 3-pointer (0 for 5).
“It’s hard to stop someone like that,” Young said. “He’s going to score. He’s going to find ways to make plays. You just have to try to make it difficult if you can.”
The Warriors led by 17 after one, and by 14 at the half, before finishing the Hawks with a 67-point second half. The Hawks didn’t do themselves any favors with 18 turnovers juxtaposed against 23 assists. Young finished with just three of those assists.
“I thought we played well, then you take the turnovers into the equation and you figure you’re going to have a long night,” said Hawks coach Lloyd Pierce, who served as a Warriors’ assistant during Curry’s rookie season.
Former Warriors Kent Bazemore and Jeremy Lin suffered rougher stat lines than Young, particularly due to being on the floor when Golden State surged. Bazemore missed five of his six shots, and had a team-worst -23 plus/minus.
Lin fared better offensively, with 14 points and 5 assists. But his plus/minus was -17.
Curry offered advice for Young, after missing the rookie’s visit to Oakland last month due to his groin injury that cost him 11 games.
“Don’t worry about comparisons, just play the game, get better,” Curry said of Young.
The Warriors continue their road trip on Wednesday in Cleveland, the site of their most recent World Championship title victory in June.