OAKLAND -- "We're back," read the message on the Oracle Arena scoreboard Tuesday at the conclusion of the Golden State Warriors' extended and extensive pre-game introductions Tuesday night.
Too bad the Utah Jazz were as well.
More than five months had passed since the Jazz finished deconstructing the Warriors in their Western Conference semifinal last season, but it seemed like barely a day had gone by as Utah stars Carlos Boozer and Deron Williams continued their assault on Golden State in a 117-96 Opening Night victory.
An unremitting Boozer totaled 32 points and 15 rebounds, while Williams came on in spurts to provide 24 points and eight assists as the Jazz beat Golden State for the fifth time in their last six meetings.
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Baron Davis picked up the Warriors' thread where it had left off, scoring 25 points and dealing 10 assists, but his teammates, with the notable exception of Mickael Pietrus (an efficient 17 points and five rebounds), failed to follow his lead. Golden State shot 26.1 percent on 3-pointers and trailed by as many as 24 points.
Warriors coach Don Nelson said Monday that he didn't think there would be any carryover from the teams' progressively aggressive postseason history, telling reporters that, "We're a different team from a year ago."
Not different enough to stem the tide on the boards, where the Jazz enjoyed a 56-37 advantage.
Not different enough to change the flow at the free-throw line, where the Warriors let 12 free points escape through errant shooting.
Not different enough to keep Boozer and Williams, the two biggest heroes of last season's series, from gashing the Warriors' defense time and again. Not even the earthquake midway through the first quarter -- a 5.6-magnitude temblor which set the sellout crowd of 19,832 swaying for 10 seconds or so -- was enough to slow down the Jazz duo, which averaged a combined 41 points a game against the Warriors last postseason.
Their presence Tuesday made moot the efforts of Davis, who had the shoulder much of the load on his own in the absence of second-in-command Stephen Jackson, who watched from home while serving the first installment of a seven-game suspension.
Nelson admitted prior to the game that his grand plan of keeping Davis fresh by limiting his minutes to 30 or less per game will have to wait until Jackson's ban is over, and one could see why that was the case in the first half. Davis played the first 16 minutes before coming out for a four-minute rest. Without Davis or Jackson, the Warriors were shredded defensively. Utah scored on eight consecutive possessions during a 16-8 run to build a 56-43 advantage.
The Warriors were able to successfully get to the rim in the first half, drawing 25 free throws, but the NBA's fifth-worst foul shooting team of 2006-07 proved that shooting coach Sidney Moncrief has more work to do by clanking nine of those.
Golden State narrowed the gap from 11 to six points early in the third quarter, spurred on by Davis' full-throttle play all over the court. But shots from Kelenna Azubuike, Monta Ellis and Matt Barnes all met their demise at the hands of Jazz forward Andrei Kirilenko, who got over the shame of being posterized so badly by Davis last season by finishing with five blocks.
Pietrus and Davis scored 17 of the Warriors' 21 third-quarter points; no one else on the roster scored a post-halftime point until Ellis put down a pair at the line with 3:52 remaining in the period.
By that point, however, Utah had already pushed its lead back to 16 points. On this night, only one pair of players would control the outcome. Boozer and Williams were back, and everything else was just so much empty pyrotechnics.
ROCKETS 95, LAKERS 92, at Los Angeles -- Shane Battier made a 3-pointer with 2.5 seconds left, and Houston Rockets withstood a furious rally from Kobe Bryant and Los Angeles.
Bryant scored 45 points, 18 in the fourth quarter, in a rally that came up just short. The Lakers trailed 77-63 with 7:58 left to play, but came back to tie it 92 with a 13-0 run capped by Derek Fisher's 3-pointer with 14 seconds left.
Modesto Christian graduate Chuck Hayes finished with four points and eight rebounds for Houston.
SPURS 106, TRAIL BLAZERS 97, at San Antonio -- It was a night of celebration for Tim Duncan.
The All-Star signed a two-year, $40 million contract extension, received his championship ring and then went out and put up 24 points and 13 rebounds to help San Antonio get its title defense off to a successful start with a victory over Portland.