|The star of the show poured in 30 points and 13 assists|
With David Lee out, there was a lot of speculation as to how second-year coach Mark Jackson would respond. Many thought that Carl Landry would replace Lee given their somewhat similar skill sets. Both play the power forward position and are capable of rebounding and knocking down the 15/16 foot jumpshot with some regularity. Lee is a better playmaker for his teammates, but Landry has proven to be a legitimate replacement. Jackson, instead, opted to shift everyone down a position. Rookie Harrison Barnes started at 4 (instead of his usual small forward position), Klay Thompson slid to the 3, Steph Curry to off guard, and Jarrett Jack started at point. By going small, the spacing improved with having a 3 point shooter at the power forward position.
The up and down pace established in the first game continued to serve both teams well in the second installment. Andre Iguodola started the game 5/5, with 12 of the Nuggets first 22 points. The Warriors responded back with a peppering of jumpshots from multiple sources (including several from usual reserve Jack). In fitting fashion, the hometeam finished the quarter up 28-26 in a battle of “whoever has the ball last will win” basketball.
In the 2nd quarter the pace continued to fit the desires of both teams. Neither team seemed too concerned with the idea of defense. Transition buckets were there to be had and the squads took full advantage. Curry finally started the game well, making up for his poor start in game 1 (his first playoff game of his career) and had 17 in the 1st half. A couple of empty possessions from the Nuggets due to turnovers and the Golden State lead ballooned to 10 points. Despite Lawson’s 13 first half points and 7 assists, the Warriors finished the half up 61-53.
The quick-strike offense continued in the 3rd. In the first minute Curry hit a long jumper, dished to Klay in transition for a three, and found Barnes for another 3 point hoop. That series of plays blew the game open early in the 2nd half. The most intriguing thing about this series is that (because of the offensive potency, fast pace, and lackluster defenders) no lead is safe.
|Rookie Harrison Barnes was sensational, adding in 24 points from the PF posiotion|
In order to slow down the Nuggets scoring and their paint touches (a point of emphasis for Geroge Karl is that he wants at least once in every possession for the ball to be in the paint) the Warriors switched to a 3-2 zone. The Nuggets still had success against the zone because of late backline rotations and cavernous passing lanes. Another issue that presented itself for the Warriors was Curry tweaking his left ankle. Curry was able to stay out of the game as the Warriors spread the scoring wealth with Thompson and Barnes scoring from outside and in transition. At the end of 3 quarters, the Warriors had put up 96 points on 63% shooting from the field (and an insane 65% from 3).
Despite the crazy shooting pace, Denver remained within shouting distance of the Warriors; in no small part due to the Nuggets bench. Led by Andre Miller and Corey Brewer, the Nuggets bench finished with 62 points.
The most beautiful thing about Curry’s dominating performance may have been his assists (13). When Denver began to trap him, he passed to the hard rolling big. When he was in the open floor, he found the teammate in transition sprinting to the three point line. His facilitating helped every Warriors player shoot 50% from the field, and the team cruised to a 131-117 victory.
The Warriors adjusted due to injury. It will be up to the Nuggets to tighten the screws on defense, because they shot better than they normally do and still lost by 14. As Faried rounds back into shape, it’ll be interesting to see how much of a factor he will be, given that he may have to be matched up against Barnes—presenting matchup problems for both. Regardless of the chess match of the two coaches, this will continue to be the most entertaining (if not competitive) series of the 1st round.