It wasn’t pretty, certainly not like Game 2 in Denver. And they nearly gave it away.
But the Warriors, like they have so many times this season, grinded one out. They took control of the series by outlasting the Denver Nuggets in a fight, 110-108, overcoming a desperate Nuggets squad and their own mistakes.
MARK JACKSON: “We’re tied together, we compete and we’re a defensive-minded team. When you make defensive your primary focus, you’re going to be in ball games. … We gave up 42 second-half points because we locked in and we competed.”
The Warriors’ didn’t dominate on offense like they did in Game 2, when they made Denver’s head spin with 131 points on 64.6 percent shooting. And their defense wasn’t good throughout the game. Nuggets guard Ty Lawson torched the Warriors with 35 points and 10 assists. Denver racked up 66 first-half points on 53.3 percent shooting.
But Golden State clamped down when they absolutely had to and head into Sunday with a chance to take command of this series.
More on the Game 3 win…
MVP: Stephen Curry
Homie is becoming a national star right before our eyes. Curry’s ankle was hurting. I don’t know how badly, but he was clearly limited. There were a few times he had an opening to drive right. But instead of bursting that direction, which would require pushing off that left ankle, he forced himself left. But that’s what makes his performance so special. He was a dominant figure in the game. Though limited, he practically matched an amazing Ty Lawson performance. He was just good.
MARK JACKSON: “He’s our leader. … I’m not surprised when Steph has big nights like this — double-doubles and plays through injury. He’s that type of player. He’s a budding star. I’m so happy he’s doing it during the playoffs ”
MDP: Klay Thompson
He was due for a stinker after two excellent games in Denver. He was 3 of 10 shooting for six points with four turnovers. He missed all five of his 3-pointers, including one form the left corner that probably would’ve broken the Nuggets’ backs. To his credit, he did a better job on Lawson than anyone else. With Klay on him in the fourth, Lawson was 1 of 5 with 7 points and two turnovers.
TELLING STAT: Hustle points = fast-break points + second-chance points. Denver and Golden State each had 34 in Game 3. That’s a noted improvement for the Nuggets. In Game 2, the Warriors held a 29-18 edge. In Game 1, the Warriors had the advantage as well, 28-20.
Game 3, the Nuggets got its fast-break game going a bit better and with a healthy Faried they rebounded better, totaling 11 offensive boards. The Nuggets had 18 second-chance points in Game 3. They had 15 combined in games 1 and 2.
THAT ONE HURT: It looked like the Warriors had decided not to switch. They were up 109-105 with 18 seconds left. Everyone was glued to their man. So how did Wilson Chandler get wide open?
Andre Miller, defended by Jarrett Jack, inbounded to Chandler, covered by Richard Jefferson. Miller ran past Chandler as if he would get it right back, and both Jack and Jefferson went with Miller.
Chandler instead passed to Ty Lawson and hustled to the corner. Lawson, defended by Thompson, immediately got it back to Chandler, who drilled the 3-pointer. Jack hustled from the top, but he was too late. To me, that hurt more than the five-second violation. You get a stop, or even a low a 2, the end is much less nerve-racking.
NEED MORE FROM: Carl Landry. He was pretty good in Game 2, with 17 points and 5 rebounds. But he was 8 of 17 shooting largely because he took a lot of jumpers. He had success in the post but didn’t milk it. He had good action on the offensive glass (4) and the Warriors could definitely use more of that. He’s gotten progressively better as the games have gone on. Sunday, I’m expecting a more desperate, physical Nuggets team. That’s right up his alley.
COACHES CORNER: Mark Jackson went with the small lineup again despite the Nuggets matching him and going small. This is turning out to be a great move because it has taken Denver’s centers out of the series. Kosta Koufos and JaVale McGee both played fewer than 14 minutes and combined for two rebounds.
Jackson also put Green on Andre Miller, and the helped take Miller completely out his game. Miller was 2 of 13 shooting with three turnovers.
GEORGE KARL: “A lot of his minutes I think Green was covering him and the kid is pretty fatiguing.”
The Warriors’ end-of-game execution was abysmal, from missing free throws to blown assignments. Overall, they look frazzled. Even before the five-second violation, Jack got the loose ball and Denver needed to foul him. He nervously dribbled up court right to the Nuggets defenders. It would’ve been wise to back it out, take your time, let them come to you. He just didn’t look composed.
I know this is on the players, and their lack of big-game experience, but Jackson needs to do something to ease their tension. They just look so tight down the stretch, and against pressure. It’s been a season-long thing, and they tend to get it done. But some of these games seem like they don’t have to be as close if the Warriors’ execute.
WHAT HE SAID: “The crowd was off the chart. There’s nothing like something being as good as advertised. They were loud. They were consistent and we fed off them even when we didn’t match their intensity in the first half. The great thing about it is that when you are part of an environment like this, you want more.” — Warriors coach Mark Jackson
FOR NEXT GAME: The Warriors need to put a wrinkle in their sets since Denver is trapping so high. Some of the Warriors’ offense requires the point to dribble to the wing for the entry pass into the post. But they are dribbling right into a trap zone (it’s a fundamental for point guards taught early to avoid trap zones, which are the corners at halfcourt and on the baselines). Obviously, you don’t want to avoid part of your offense because of a trap, but the counter needs to be there and ready to attack. Usually, if you put someone who can make a play in the middle, out by the free throw line area, that’s an easy outlet.
SEE, WHAT HAD HAPPENED WAS: The lane was wide open. The Warriors were up 108-105 with 1:05 left in the game. Stephen Curry had gotten by Andre Iguodala with a screen from Andrew Bogut. He then zipped past the helper, Kenneth Faried, with a cross over. By the time he got to the free throw line, he had a head of steam and bad intentions.
When he went up, he expected Wilson Chandler to go for the block. So he opted for the finger roll. But Chandler didn’t get there in time, and the indecision in the air caused Curry to miss the easy layup.
“Was I high enough to dunk it?” Curry asked after the game. When his teammate said yes, he slapped his hand against his thigh in playful frustration.
“Dang it! A missed opportunity.”
Can you imagine if Curry had dunked that home with the game on the line?
SERIOUSLY?!: The Warriors had 23 turnovers last night. They led to 30 points for the Nuggets. That sounds like the recipe for a loss. You may be surprised, though, that high turnover games don’t usually doom the Warriors. That was the ninth game this season, including the playoffs, where the Warriors committed at least 20 turnovers. They are now 7-2 in those games. As much as they harp against turnovers, it seems turnovers aren’t costing them. Certainly, miscues late hurt. But Tim Kawakami puts it best. It’s the John Wooden philosophy. Being aggressive, attacking, comes with turnovers. Though they pile up and seem to hurt, the Warriors are a better team when they’re being aggressive. They make as many good things happen as they do turnovers.