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SAN FRANCISCO — Something has dawned on Stephen Curry as the Golden State Warriors stage their first legitimate title quest in nearly three years: He’s now the old guy.
“When I look at some of those guys, you’re reminded of how young they are,” Curry said, contemplating the NBA’s starscape while the Warriors prepared for the Mavericks’ arrival in San Francisco. “Jayson Tatum is 24. Luka [Doncic] is 23. Ja [Morant] was 22. That’s the only part where you’re just like, ‘Hell, they’re really that young.’ You’re thinking about what you were doing at that age, trying to come into this scene and [play] playoff basketball.”
The NBA has long been a gerontocracy, a league ruled by the venerated vets who school — and at times torment — the upstarts before relinquishing the glory. Few NBA stars in recent decades lift a championship trophy until their early prime — and certainly not without a lot of help. Doncic has designs on accelerating his track, at the expense of Curry, America’s longtime favorite little brother who, in a flash, has graduated to elder statesman at age 34.
The Warriors’ 112-87 Game 1 blowout win against the Dallas Mavericks at Chase Center on Wednesday night was a timely reminder that, in the NBA, championships are still the finest source of inspiration. Though he was defended by the Mavericks’ toughest defensive guard in Reggie Bullock, occasionally blitzed by a second defender, targeted in Doncic’s pick-and-roll attack and uncharacteristically inaccurate from the free throw line, Curry displayed the poise and ease of a seasoned player entirely in his element. He led all players in points (21), rebounds (12) and assists (four, tied with four others) in Game 1 of these Western Conference finals, the first time in his playoff career he has done so in all three categories, according to ESPN Stats & Information data.
“We are super comfortable on this stage,” Curry said. “There’s more gratitude of being back here and more sense of urgency on not letting the opportunity slip away. Who knows how it plays out, but I’m enjoying every bit of this. I know Klay [Thompson] is, as well, and I know Draymond [Green] is because we haven’t played meaningful games at this time of year in two years. It’s special.” The win was neither Curry nor the Warriors’ most artful exhibition of their trademark style. They were hasty early, and there were few classic clips of their patented split cut for the vault