OAKLAND — It might’ve taken all the defibrillators in the Bay Area to revive the nearly 20,000 fans at Oracle Arena whose hearts stopped Thursday.
Golden State nearly squandered an 18-point lead, and another star-like performance from point guard Stephen Curry — who changed the tide of the game with another big third quarter before his home crowd. But in the end, after a compilation of turnovers, guard Jarrett Jack made a pair of free throws in the final seconds to seal the 92-88 win over the Denver Nuggets, clinching the riveting first-round upset, 4-2.
The sixth-seeded Warriors advance to the second round against the No. 2 San Antonio Spurs. Game 1 is Monday in Texas.
“When we were down in the first half,” coach Mark Jackson said. “I pulled him aside and said, ‘There’s going to be a point in this game where you’re going to take over because you’re the best player on the floor. And what will happen is everybody else will follow you. And sure enough …”
Warriors forward David Lee, out for the season with a torn right hip flexor, has attending every practice. He’s participates in every meeting. He is filling his teammates eat with whatever insight he can offer.
But Lee said should he be inactive for Game 2, you don’t have to worth about him live Tweeting.
“Can you imagine that?” Lee said with a laugh. “Nah. I’ve got too many holes in my game to be on Twitter breaking down other people’s games.”
Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant’s in-game Tweets became national news. Out for the year due to a torn Achilles, Bryant couldn’t be with the team for Game 1 at San Antonio. As he explained, flying would increase the swelling in his injured foot. So Bryant did some live coaching on Twitter, offering critique and strategy to his followers.
He has since said he would stop live Tweeting because it had become a distraction.
NBA legend Jerry West, in a radio interview with ESPN, doesn’t think it’s a good idea.
WEST: “That’s Kobe. I have nothing but respect for him. The social media, I just don’t think it’s good. Therms enough pressure on everyone now. I don’t understand that at all. I never have understood it. … It’s just something I wouldn’t do.”
Golden State did exactly what it wanted to do: slow down the NBA’s best transition team. Only problem with that was that put it put Andre Miller in play.
Golden State was on the verge of stealing Game 1, despite a subpar performance from Stephen Curry and an injury to David Lee. But Miller broke their hearts with a driving layup with 1.2 seconds left, handing the Warriors a 97-95 defeat, souring an otherwise gutsy performance.
JARRETT JACK: “We’re not into moral victories. In a simple phrase, we played good enough to lose.”
The Warriors’ defense contained speedy Denver point guard Ty Lawson and silenced forward Andre Iguodala, holding the Nuggets 11 points below their average. But Golden State couldn’t come up with an answer for Miller. He scored 18 of Denver’s 26 fourth-quarter points and finished with a game-high 28, taking advantage of the one-on-one defense he faced.
It was a dramatic end and a riveting start to a series most expect to be highly entertaining. The Warriors, even with the loss, head into Game 2 on Tuesday with plenty reasons to be confident.
“I thought we did some things very well,” coach Mark Jackson said. “What I told my team was that nobody came in here thinking that we were going to sweep the Denver Nuggets. You have tow in four games to advance and you can’t act like it’s over. So take the blow and be ready to make adjustments and respond.”
Stephen Curry was named the Western Conference Player of the Month for April by the NBA on Friday. Curry is only the franchise’s third player ever to receive the honor. The other two: Hall of Famers Chris Mullin (twice) and Bernard King.
In eight April games, Curry averaged 25.4 points, 8.1 assists, 3.9 rebounds and 2.13 steals in 38.9 minutes. He made 36 from 3-point range this month, propelling him to the record for most 3-pointers in a season. He hit 20 of 39 from 3-point range the last three regular-season games (51.3 percent) to finish the season with 272 3-pointers, surpassing Ray Allen’s mark of 269.
Curry scored 20-or-more points in five consecutive games, the longest such streak of his career. That streak was punctuated by his 47-point, nine-assist performance in a loss at Staples Center on April 12, making him just the fourth Warrior since the team moved out west to score 45 or more on the road against the Lakers (Rick Barry, Guy Rodgers and Wilt Chamberlain were the other three).
It’s been 23 years since the Warriors had a player win Player of the Month award. Mullin won it in November of 1990 and January of 1989. King, recently inducted into the Hall of Fame, received it for January 1981.
The five Western Conference Players of the Month winners this season: Kevin Durant (twice), Chris Paul, Tony Parker and Kobe Bryant. New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony won the April honors for the Eastern Conference.