They scored 131 points. They shot 64.6 percent. They made 14 of 25 3-pointers. They had four players score at least 20 points.
It was the best playoff shooting performance in franchise history. It was the best by any team since April 25, 1991, when Utah — yes, the John Stockton and Karl Malone led Jazz — shot 65.1 percent against Phoenix 22 years ago.
The Warriors only missed 28 shots all night. And that’s without David Lee, one of the best offensive players in the NBA.
It was such an impressive display, even Charles Barkley was floored after Golden State’s 131-117 win.
CHARLES BARKLEY: “I’ve been in (and around) the NBA for 30 years now and I’ve never seen guys shoot it like that.”
The cliché is a series doesn’t begin until a road team wins. Well, Golden State emphatically breathed life into this first-round series by taking homecourt advantage from the No. 3 seed. Denver had won 24 straight at the Pepsi Center, their last loss coming on Jan. 18.
So now, the Warriors come home for two games at Oracle Arena, which with the scent of an upset in the air figures to reach We Believe levels.
JARRETT JACK: “We can’t wait to see them. I’ve heard so much about how crazy our playoff atmosphere was the last time they were in the playoffs. I’m looking forward for them to top that.”
More on the Game 2 win…
MVP: Harrison Barnes
Stephen Curry had a monster game. Jack was a beast. But the difference was Barnes. He showed up in a big way: 24 points, six rebounds, 34 minutes. It seemed like all of his 9 baskets were big, either powering a Warriors run or stopping one by the Nuggets. Playing power forward, Barnes took advantage of the open space and one-on-one coverage. He ate up Wilson Chandler and knocked down his open shots. And he capped the performance by driving past Anthony Randolph and throwing it down with two hands. Backwards.
The Black Falcon.
MARK JACKSON: “Harrison Barnes, for a rookie, hasn’t been getting the respect that he deserves. A rookie that starts for a No. 6 seed all year long, defends. He doesn’t kill you with numbers, but he does everything the right way. It was just an incredible performance by the whole group.”
MDP: Andrew Bogut
This was one of those games where no one was really disappointing. In the name of consistency, I’m forced to nitpick in a great team win for Golden State. But if someone has to take home the trophy, Bogut was the one who dropped off his Game 1 performace. He finished with 6 points,8 rebounds and a block in 22 minutes. He wasn’t as dominant in the paint at protecting the rim. Part of that, though, was because the pace of the game was faster and more open. He had five fouls and four turnovers. And he got dunked on again, this time with two hands by Wilson Chandler.
TELLING STAT: The last three quarters of the game, the MADE 40 of 60 SHOTS. Half would’ve been good. After the first quarter, two-thirds of their shots went in. TWO-THIRDS. The Warriors scored 35 points in the second, third and fourth quarters. In three quarters, they scored 10 more points than they did all of Game 1.
KARL: “I don’t think I have ever coached a game where a team had three 35-point quarters, maybe in my entire career. I don’t think I remember that.”
THAT ONE HURT: It was rather innocuous, as they usually are with Stephen Curry. He was dribbling down the right side and was met with a trap. He tried to come to a sudden stop, but when he planted his left ankle rolled.
He limped out of the game, causing panic in DubNation. It wasn’t the same ankle that has given him problems over the last few years. Still, half the crowd at the Pepsi Center watched him hopping on it in the aisle, and stretching it with a giant rubber band on the bench, and pushing off it at the scorer’s table during the next timeout.
Curry started the fourth quarter and, 58 seconds in drained a pull-up 3-pointer off the pick-and-roll going to his left, sending a sigh of relief across the Bay Area. But after the game, Curry’s ankle was still ginger as he limped around the locker room.
Golden State gets two days off before Game 3.
CURRY: “It’s sore. It’s a normal ankle sprain that I’ve dealt with plenty of times. It’s just the other foot. I don’t see any concern going forward to Friday night, So I’ll receive my treatment and be back.”
NEED MORE FROM: Carl Landry. He didn’t play poorly on Tuesday. He did his job. But moving forward, it’s not likely the Warriors will shoot 65 percent again, or knock down 14 of 25 3-pointers. He is going to have to provide offense, preferably high percentage offense. He didn’t get the touches in Game 2. But Golden State is going to need him to be a steady inside presence, especially if the shots stop falling, which they are known to do.
WHAT HE SAID: “We have had no expectations on us from the start. Nobody picked us to make the playoffs. Nobody picked us in this series. I am sure it was even more of a serious pick for them to not take us when David Lee went down. We understand that we don’t have many expectations outside of our locker room. We are a confident, resilient team that has bounced back form tough games before and we’ll do it again. And we have that mentality coming in so there is no reason why that would change come Friday.” Point guard Stephen Curry.
COACHES CORNER: Jackson has been playing the underdog card since he arrived in Denver. He was asked, since Lee is out, if he still needed to sell that Denver was the better team and George Karl was the better coach.
JACKSON: “I didn’t say that they were better and I didn’t say George was the better coach. I said I’d give them the check mark if I were sitting on the other side (with the media).
“Now what was the question? I just wanted to get that clear.”
Jackson made his point even clearer once the game tipped off. I’ve spent so many Game Rewinds second-guessing Jackson. And I was one of the people who thought Karl would have the advantage in the series. So I must be the one to say Jackson pitched a perfect game Tuesday.
When he started Jarrett Jack, I thought he was risking running out of gas late by coming out swinging early. Nope. The Warriors got stronger as the game went on and it was Denver that ran out of gas.
When I saw Draymond Green, Richard Jefferson, Festus Ezeli and Carl Landry checking into the game together to start the second quarter, I thought they wouldn’t be able to score. With this lineup, Denver could really take Curry away and a drought was coming. Nope. That unit turned a 28-26 hole into a 42-39 lead. Green, Jefferson and Landry all knocked down their open looks.
When he took Curry out at the 8:01 mark of the second, after Curry had hit three straight, I thought he would ice his start just when he’d got going. Nope. Curry came back at the 6:31 mark. Over the next three-plus minutes, he scored nine more points, his fourth straight jumper putting Golden State up 56-45.
Here’s a list of moves by Jackson that paid off.
* Just before the starting lineups, Jackson shared his secret plot to take over the world with Jarrett Jack. He told him he would start with Curry and Klay Thompson, pushing Harrison Barnes to small forward.
Jackson had already submitted his starting lineup and it had Landry starting. Landry was even announced as a starter in the introductions. Jackson wouldn’t give the details for his last-minute switcheroo. Jackson said he wanted to go small, but he had to make sure it was the right decision. Reading between the lines: he wanted to see if Denver was starting small. The Warriors thought Denver would start with Kenneth Faried, who missed Game 1 with a sprained ankle but was returning for Game 2. But once he knew Evan Fournier was in the starting lineup, Jackson pulled the trigger on his small lineup.
JACKSON: “The initial reaction was to put Carl in the lineup all day (Monday). I was by myself just thinking about matchups, thinking about adjustments and really, it hit me when (the reporters) asked me who was starting and I began to tease saying ‘Jarrett Jack at the power forward, I don’t know it could be anybody.’ And all of a sudden, my mind started wandering. I came to mu coaches and I said, ‘Am I crazy to start Harrison at the four? Somebody talk me out of it?’ And they all just smiled and co-signed it and I knew it was the right thing.”
It most certainly was the right thing. (See above.) Here are more moves by Jackson that worked out:
* He gave some of Bogut’s minutes to Festus Ezeli. Bogut topped 30 minutes in Game 1 and was very effective. But in Game 2, Bogut played just 22 minutes, and Ezeli, who played six minutes in Game 1, played 16 minutes. Festus didn’t rebound well and he turned it over three times. But his energy and athleticism fit the Warriors style on Tuesday. Even with a sprained right knee, imprisoned in a bulky brace, Ezeli moves better than Bogut. That energy, that bounciness, it was like shots of ginseng for the Warriors.
* He played Jarrett Jack at shooting guard a lot. Jack played 43 minutes, even more than Curry. But it worked because Jackson switched Curry and Jack back-and-forth at point almost perfectly.
Curry didn’t get his strengths taken away by playing almost exclusively off the ball. And he Jack got to look for his shot from different angles and spots, instead of from the top where he’s got the attention of the entire defense.
Andre Miller had a good game, but Jack outplayed him to get his revenge, finishing with 26 points on 10 of 15 shooting with 7 assists.
* Manipulated the strengths of his bench. Richard Jefferson gave the Warriors six solid minutes. Draymond Green played a full 18 minutes, knocking down a big shot and bringing some energy.
The best rotational move of the night was his plan for Faried. Whenever “Manimal” came into the game, so did Landry. His job was to neutralize the Nuggets energetic, hustling forward.
Faried finished with four points, two rebounds and two turnovers in 21 minutes. He was clearly limited by that sprained ankle. His lateral movement just wasn’t there. Landry didn’t have a big game. But he did his job, and gave the Warriors 9 points and 4 rebounds in 18 minutes.
* His zone defense dared the Nuggets to shoot from the outside. And it seems they can’t help but take the bait. Denver’s goal is to get 60 points in the paint. They had 50 on Tuesday (after 52 in Game 1).
Denver took 26 3-pointers, one more than the Warriors, and made just nine. Wilson Chandler, Corey Brewer and Ty Lawson kept chucking away. They combined to go 16 of 42 from the field (38 percent). They missed 14 of the 19 3-pointers they took. Brewer took 11.
The Warriors will take that all day long. Denver ranked 25th in 3-point shooting during the regular season.
JACK: “David has put us on his back all season long. Steph has put us on his back all season long. But the person that’s pretty much put us on his back the most on this team is coach Jackson. As long as we’ve got him, I’m confident as ever. I believe in everything he says. I believe in everybody that’s in uniform. We miss David dearly. But as long as we’ve got our coach driving the ship, I’m confident that we can go out against anybody and be successful.”
FOR NEXT GAME: The Warriors have now outrebounded the Nuggets by 20 in two games. Denver’s offensive rebounds have become non-existent (13 in two games). It is incredibly vital Golden State continues to win the battle of the boards. Denver on Tuesday had just 10 second-chance points with only 8 fast-break points. The likelihood is Faried will be healthier come Game 3 with two more days off. That puts the onus on the Warriors to gang rebound like they did in Game 2. No player had more than 8 rebounds, but seven players had at least 3.
SEE, WHAT HAD HAPPENED WAS: The Nuggets had some success defending Curry with bigger players in Game 1. Guys like Corey Brewer and Andre Iguodala usually give Curry a hard time. But the bigger deal was the Nuggets were able to take away the pick-and-roll by blitzing Curry. With Wilson Chandler as the power forward, he has the length and athleticism to make it hard for him to turn and crowd him to make the pass more difficult.
But two things changed to free to free up the Warriors pick-and-roll offense. They started running it with the centers (instead with the power forward, as Lee was out and Landry didn’t play that much in his place). With center’s now helping off the pick-and-rolls, Curry changed his mode of attack.
Usually, Curry goes wide off a screen. He doesn’t have great speed, so he needs to go wide to get around the edge and get past the help off the screener. Or usually he goes wide to string out both defenders, creating an open look for the screener. Tuesday, however, he didn’t string it out. Since his man has to go over the top of the screen, Curry adjusted and took advantage of a crack of space.
The helper — which with the center screening for Curry was often Koufos or JaVale McGee — is usually moving in the same direction as Curry, ready to apply the trap or stay with Curry long enough for the defender to get over the screen. But Curry started darting back against the flow, on the back of the screener, splitting the two defenders. With enough quickness to get by the center, Curry was able to get into the teeth of the defense regularly. If the next level of help didn’t step up, Curry had the open look at a mid-range If it did, he found the open man.
Eventually, burned by him splitting the defense, the Nuggets trap came late or not at all. So Curry was able to come off the screen and get a good look at the 3 or see the floor better. A quick read and he would make a play.
TY LAWSON: “The pick-and-roll defense (was Denver’s biggest problem). The game plan was to keep the ball out of Stephen Curry’s hands. But he came off and had open looks and then he started finding people. After that, we started scrambling, and we can’t play like that.”
Curry wound up scoring 30 points and his 13 assists led to 33 more points. That’s 48.1 percent of Golden State’s offense in Game 2.