After edging the Golden State Warriors by two in Game 1, the Denver Nuggets may have went into Game 2 thinking things would get easier without David Lee around. Instead, the Warriors who remained blitzed Denver from the start with 64.6% accuracy, running the Nuggets off their own home court in a 131-117 victory that tied the series at one game each.
— Stephen Curry was phenomenal: 30 points (13-for-23), 13 assists, 5 rebounds, ran the equivalent of a half marathon around Ty Lawson, came back from rolling his left ankle yet again … only one turnover(!).
— Jarrett Jack redeemed himself after a subpar Game 1: 26 points (10-of-15), 7 assists, a team-leading 42-plus minutes.
— Klay Thompson was ridiculously efficient: 21 points (8-for-11 from the field, 5-for-6 from three-point range), only one turnover.
— Harrison Barnes arrived.
Turns out all Barnes needed was to be needed. I wish I could’ve been a fly on the wall when Mark Jackson talked to Barnes about what was expected with him during Lee’s absence. Partly because Barnes played his best game as a pro at the best possible time — 24 points on 9-of-14 shooting, 6 rebounds and no turnovers. Mostly because Jackson has become instantly fascinating with over two playoff games, and is going to become one of the hottest names in coaching by the time everyone wakes up on Wednesday morning.
Barnes is also one of the best in-game dunkers in the league on the down low, but that’s no longer a Bay Area secret. Barnes dunked four times in Game 2, including a reverse dunk on Anthony Randolph:
Barnes also pulled down a grownup rebound in the fourth quarter when the game wasn’t a done deal yet. No GIF of that play, but it was the perfect representation of how Barnes can become a star in this league. He can do whatever he wants. The possibilities are now endless.
Here’s how thoroughly the Warriors crushed the Nuggets tonight: Denver needed an 8-point outburst from Randolph in the second half to keep the score somewhat respectable. Randolph was one of the Nuggets’ better players in Game 2, which is weird for so many reasons (especially to those who’ve followed the Warriors closely). Denver should be embarrassed after allowing a Paul Westhead-like 131 points to the Warriors, but the man who surely feels worst is the one whose individual matchup was the biggest unmitigated disaster: George Karl.
Mark Jackson: Like a Boss
Getting this team to the playoffs with a gimpy Andrew Bogut and three rookies playing key roles was more than enough, but this series has shown beyond any doubt that Joe Lacob made the right decision to hire Jackson. Jackson made only one mistake all night that I noticed — telling Barnes to intentionally foul Andre Iguodala at the end of the first quarter — and that didn’t come back to bite him. Karl is a well-respected NBA coach who has won a ton of games, but Jackson put on a clinic in his second career postseason game.
— Jackson played coy with his starting lineup. I was listening to the Warriors’ pregame show while taking a pregame walk and Tim Roye said Carl Landry was going to start at power forward. Then I turned the game on 15-20 minutes later and Jack was in the starting lineup, as I suggested/hoped yesterday. Landry ended up playing almost the same number of minutes of both Festus Ezeli and Draymond Green (around 18), and that’s fine. Asking Landry to become Lee was never the right way to go about this.
— Tim Kawakami said it best right after the first half ended: “Bogut & Ezeli in together on a last OFFENSIVE possession! And it works! Mark Jackson is on fire.”
— What do you do when one of the best guys on your team at running the pick-and-roll with Stephen Curry and making interior passes is absent? Play to your strengths: make the shot clock irrelevant, push the ball whenever possible, grab every rebound you can.
— Jackson was helped by his players (or, as he says, “my guys”) shooting incredibly well. But Jackson deserves a lot of the credit for exactly that. I’m tired of using the word “loose” to describe players who play well in pressure-filled situations, so I’ll call the Warriors’ effort “aggressively relaxed” from the very start. That’s Jackson’s doing.
— The Warriors used a 1-2-2 zone at times to throw off the Nuggets and were so effective with their small lineup that Karl was afraid to use JaVale McGee. It helps that Andrew Bogut (who was quieter in Game 2 than Game 1, but still provided a presence the Nuggets worried about) pretty much negates McGee. Bogut is also helping to make Kosta Koufos look like a starting center in the NBDL, not the starting center for the third seed in the Western Conference.
— In Game 1 the Warriors kept the game at their tempo — slower than what Denver is used to. In Game 2 the Nuggets probably expected more of the same, and Jackson went from throwing changeups to 98-mph fastballs.
— After the Warriors’ bigs kept getting whistled for moving screens early, CSN sideline reporter Ric Bucher said he heard Jackson telling the Warriors not to stop setting screens. They didn’t. Bogut leveled Andre Iguodala, who scored 12 points in the first quarter, and Iguodala was a complete non-factor the rest of the way.
Which team is deeper? With Kenneth Faried half the Manimal he used to be these days, that’s up for debate. Which team is tougher? Thanks to Jackson and his players rising to the challenge of replacing Lee, there’s no question right now. The Warriors will hop on a plane to Oakland with the 1-1 split they needed. The decibel level at Oracle is going to be frightening on Friday.