It took a while for Oracle to become chaotic, riotous and unhinged. Not coincidentally, it was the same amount of time it took for Stephen Curry to hit his first three of the game. With 9:35 left in the third quarter, Curry connected to give the Warriors a 47-44 lead, and you remembered this was an Oracle Arena playoff game. Seconds later, Stephen Curry pump-faked Ty Lawson in to the first row and made another from the left wing.
Andre Iguodala answered with a three (and celebrated, as he did after every three he made this series — not the best look for a guy that generally plays the right way all the time). Then Landry hit a jumper, followed by Denver answering back with a dunk by Kosta Koufos. Cue Curry again: three up, good, and the crowd is immediately LOUDER THAN AT ANY TIME SINCE THE BARON DAVIS DUNK OVER ANDREI KIRILENKO.
Curry scored 11 points in two minutes and 11 seconds, and the Warriors had a lead they would not relinquish.
But oh, did they try. The Warriors pushed their advantage to 18 in the fourth quarter, only to see it dwindle in the final minutes. The Nuggets were desperate for turnovers, and for one of the only times in this series it appeared that the action got too fast for Golden State. Luckily for the Warriors, even though they turned the ball over five times in the last 97 seconds, the Nuggets finished the game shooting 2-for-9 and the Warriors escaped with a 4-2 series victory that barely anyone outside of the Warriors locker room thought was possible.
Andrew Bogut, savior
The first half was, in a word, gross. The Warriors committed 10 turnovers, made only 38.5% of their field goals and surrendered 13 offensive rebounds to the Nuggets … but they still were only down 42-40 at halftime. How was that possible? The fun narrative would’ve came from pointing to David Lee, but Lee collected a rebound and missed a jumper in 87 seconds of action and sat back down.
It was Denver’s offensive struggles (they only shot 34% from the field in the first half) that kept the Warriors in this game, along with Andrew Bogut. With the Warriors’ guards going a combined 4-for-20, Bogut’s steady play kept the Warriors from sinking and the crowd from getting too tense. Bogut was called for two moving screens where he appeared that the soles of his gigantic white Nikes were stuck to the hardwood, but that didn’t stop him from doing everything he could to prove his worth yet again in these playoffs.
The Nuggets collected 10 offensive rebounds in the first 14 minutes of this game; Bogut came in and grabbed eight rebounds in the last eight minutes of the second quarter. In all he finished the half with 8 points on 4-of-5 shooting, 10 rebounds and 4 blocks. Without Bogut’s inspired and rugged play — he didn’t play the last quarter and a half of Game 5 and looked to be grimacing at times tonight — the Warriors would have faced a halftime deficit similar to the 20 points they found themselves behind by after the first two quarters of Tuesday’s game in Denver.
Bogut continued his interior dominance in the second half, and ended with 14 points, 21 rebounds and four blocks.
Lee got a huge ovation during pregame warmups, which had to feel good since he has only been able to experience a playoff game at Oracle Arena as a spectator. Lee didn’t play much, but he didn’t have to. The Warriors had already won three games without him, but to see him dunk in the layup line and enter the game when he was supposed to be out the rest of the season was a pretty cool moment, one Mark Jackson milked for all it was worth.
“I guess the New York City in me, the Willis Reed impact as a kid, really played a role. Not only did I put him in, but I ran a play for him for a shot, just about where Willis hit his shot,” said Jackson, who said he didn’t want to put Lee in a situation where he’d have to guard Kenneth Faried.
“Obviously part of it was for inspiration. It got the crowd going.”
I asked Lee about the Reed comparison. “The difference was Willis hit that jump shot and mine rimmed it out,” Lee said. “He called a pick-and-pop iso for me and I kind of looked at him like, ‘Thanks, but no thanks.'”
Lee also talked about how much it meant to help the team, as well as how much the team loves Mark Jackson and each other in the following 56-second video.
I also asked Lee when he knew coming back like this was a possibility. “I kind of circled this date on my calendar as a home game that I could provide a morale boost for the guys,” Lee said. “Much better than sitting in a suit, that’s for sure.”
Draymond Green is no ordinary rookie
16 points and 10 rebounds in 24 minutes. While many wondered how Curry would respond to getting knocked around in Game 5, Green’s relaxed nature and clutch play in the most important game of the season was vital for the Warriors in a game they pretty much had to win. I talked to Green for a bit in the locker room (no champagne in there, unlike baseball teams that get to the playoffs or win series).
Jackson spoke before the game about how his group loved to play together and that’s why he felt so good going into the most important contest of the season. I mentioned that to Green and asked him about the pregame vibe in the Warriors’ locker room. “Happy,” said Green, who mentioned how a story Jackson told the team loosened everyone up — he refused to provide details on the story, however.
In this video I asked Green about his focus on offensive rebounding (Green had four offensive boards and a couple put-backs). Then I asked him about George Karl’s remark that he didn’t know whether Green played basketball or football at Michigan State. “As a rookie, being mentioned in a postgame press conference, you’re doing something right,” Green said.
A few notes before I leave the media room (hopefully not too long after 1 am)
— Andris Biedrins was the first guy I saw leaving the locker room, and he had a HUGE smile on his face.
— Jarrett Jack, who pounded the rock way too much, didn’t shoot all that well and drove everyone absolutely bonkers who watched this game, was the last person to take his uniform off in the locker room.
— More Lee, who said there’s no way he’ll be able to come back and play 30 minutes a game in these playoffs, but he did sound somewhat optimistic that he could come back to the floor at some point.
Why did he want to push the issue and come back for Game 6?
“I saw tonight as an elimination game for both teams. We didn’t want to go back to Denver.”
How did he feel, and can he come back and play a role against San Antonio?
“Tonight after I shot that jumper I went to backpedal and my leg was nonexistent. The fastest guy to ever come back they said in the NFL (took) four and a half to five weeks. It was something I wanted to do for my team, to be a leader. To give us a boost. With an extra four or five days it’s come this far. Stranger things have happened. I’m excited about this.”
Was the comeback a situation where he thought you could contribute, or was it solely a motivational gimmick?
“It was not gimmicky. I knew that I wasn’t going to play more than about six or eight minutes tonight max because every other muscle around that is working triple time. That’s how you really get hurt is when you’re out there and you try to overplay and play too long. I still had limitations. Yesterday when I worked out I still had major limitations on what I could do. I probably could’ve given us another two to three minutes but the guys played so well it wasn’t necessary.”
Did he risk making the injury worse by returning for Game 6?
“Part of it is the fact that I have a completely torn muscle off the bone. I think surgery is a very good possibility at the end of the season. We’ll see what happens with that. Which is also one of the reasons that I was willing to go out there and do that tonight, because it’s going to get fixed one way or another.”