OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Andrew Bogut has taken to publicly calling himself unflattering names.
Such was his mood Monday when someone inquired about the Golden State center often appearing mean and nasty. He used another word to basically refer to himself as a jerk — “100 percent,” he said.
As long as Bogut and the defending champion Warriors keep playing the kind of defense that has helped them set the tone so far in these playoffs without MVP Stephen Curry, he won’t even mind if anybody else uses those words to describe him either.
Bogut’s two early blocks got Golden State going during Sunday’s 118-106 win against the Portland Trail Blazers in Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinals. The teams resume their best-of-seven series Tuesday night in Oakland.
Also Tuesday, the Toronto Raptors host the Miami Heat in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference semifinal.
The Warriors again will try to establish an energy and presence on the defensive end from the start. They know their offense will come given this team’s depth and many playmakers.
“It’s very important we don’t give up just layups early in the game,” Bogut said. “We’re trying to protect the paint and make sure they get nothing easy early.”
Bogut wound up with 10 points, 12 rebounds and three blocks, and the Warriors have proven they are still a dominant team without Curry, who could return from a sprained right knee as soon as Saturday’s Game 3 in Portland.
The Australian 7-footer takes pride in his unfriendly nature on the court, and he rarely is seen shaking hands with the opponent before the opening tip. That topic led to Coach of the Year Steve Kerr reflecting on a rare road start against the Celtics back when he was a player.
“I think in 15 years I only started like 17 games,” Kerr said Monday. “I started a game in Boston Garden my second year in the league, somebody got hurt, I was with Cleveland. I went out and Larry Bird gave me a fist bump and said, ‘Good luck, Steve,’ and I almost fainted. It was awesome. Larry Bird knew my name.”
Any lack of pregame pleasantries aside, the Blazers fully understand they can’t afford another slow start after falling behind 37-17 after the first period, which Kerr called “a beautiful quarter.” Guards Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum combined to shoot 13 for 43.
Back home in the East Bay, Lillard was hoarse as he has been battling a chest cold in recent days but noted Monday: “I’ve always said there are no excuses. The bottom line is my team needs me to perform better than I did. Tomorrow, I’ve got to be better. I will be. Our team will be better.”
He said the Blazers must match Golden State from the tipoff.
“We’ve just got to understand that they are a good first-quarter team. We’ve got to be better from the start of the game,” Lillard said. “So once we fix that and continue to compete the way we did, we’ll have a chance.”
A look at Game 2 on Tuesday night at Oracle Arena:
Trail Blazers at Warriors, Golden State leads 1-0. 7:30 p.m. PDT, TNT
Kerr expects Portland to push all game, never surrendering on the offensive end even if the Blazers trail by double digits.
That’s what makes Golden State’s defensive energy for 48 minutes so important if the Warriors are going to take a 2-0 series lead at home.
“They’re not going to be a team that’s going to panic and all of a sudden it goes from 25 to 35 and it’s game over,” Kerr said. “They’re the kind of team, they’re going to stay with it. They’ve got such great shot-makers, they’re always going to be on your tail, so our defense has to be locked in for 48 minutes.”
Slowing down Klay Thompson, who scored 37 points while handling the load of guarding Lillard, must be a top priority for Portland.
Portland coach Terry Stotts is eager to see his team bounce back. The Blazers not only fell way behind in the first quarter and shot just 40 percent — 10 for 31 on 3-pointers — they also were outrebounded 55-40 and gave up 16 offensive boards.
“Well, we can’t get down 20. Anything less than 20 would be a better start,” he said Monday. “They’re a first-quarter team. They’re the best in the league at getting off to good starts. So, we have to be able to match that.”