Warriors coach Keith Smart said before the season opener that his team's calling card would be teamwork. The reason, Smart said, was the Warriors "don't have that dominant guy."
Wednesday night, however, guard Monta Ellis begged to differ.
So might the Houston Rockets. Ellis scored 46 points, tying his NBA high, while leading the Warriors to a 132-128 season-opening win over the Yao Ming-less Rockets (0-2) at Oracle Arena.
"I'm just happy we got the win," said Ellis, who made 18 of 24 shots. "It was just one of those games where shots were going in early on and they just kept falling."
Wednesday marked Golden State's first season-opening victory since 2005, when it routed visiting Atlanta under then-coach Mike Montgomery. The Warriors had lost their previous four openers, including a one-point loss to visiting Houston last year.
The last player to score 46 or more points in the first game of the season was Chicago's Michael Jordan, who had 54 against Cleveland on Nov. 3, 1989. The last Warrior to top 40 on opening night was Latrell Sprewell, who totaled 45 at Houston on Halloween of 1997.
Ellis also got help from his teammates. Backcourt mate Stephen Curry finished with 25 and 11 assists. Forward David Lee, making his Warriors' regular-season debut, had 17 points, 15 rebounds and six assists.
Still, the Warriors needed Ellis' offensive heroics because a couple Rockets players were having their way at the offensive
Houston is quicker and more versatile without Yao. The Rockets are taking it slow and cautious with Yao, who missed all of last season following foot surgery. Since Houston played Tuesday night in Los Angeles, coach Rick Adelman rested Yao on Wednesday.
That opened the door for others to get involved in Houston's offense. Forward Luis Scola had 36 points on 24 shots to go with 16 rebounds. Guard Kevin Martin struggled shooting (5 of 14 from the field) but knocked down 17 of 17 free throws for 28 points. Houston was 42 of 52 from the foul line, while the Warriors were 22 of 26.
Even Chuck Hayes, starting in place of Yao, tied his career high with 16 points to go with eight rebounds and six assists.
"We didn't do many good things on the defensive end," Lee said, "but one area we did do well on was that we out-rebounded them. They actually shot under 50 percent, but we let them get to the free throw line 52 times, which was a problem. I thought our energy at the end of the game carried us through."
The Warriors played enough defense to create some separation. They held the Rockets to 12-for-28 shooting (42.9 percent) in the fourth quarter.
And Ellis took care of the rest, scoring 11 in the quarter. When the Warriors needed a big play, Ellis made it.
His turnaround bank shot put the Warriors up 119-114 with 5:26 left. He put the Warriors up 124-114 with a pull-up jumper off an inbounds play. Then, with 2:21 to play, Ellis nailed a step-back 18-footer with Rockets guard Courtney Lee close enough to smell his breath.
It was about as dominant as dominant gets.
"I can't say how glad I am," Smart said, "to be coaching this guy at this particular point in his career."
L.A. Clippers at Warriors, 7:30 p.m., CSNBA
Stephen Curry shines despite painful ankle. Page 8
Go online for a photo slideshow from Wednesday's Warriors opener.