In front of a sellout crowd of 19,500 plus at Oracle Arena in Oakland, the Golden State Warriors won their first playoff series since 2007 when they beat the top seeded Dallas Mavericks behind Baron Davis, Stephen Jackson, Monta Ellis and Andris Biedrens.
The 2013 version of the Warriors boasts one of the most dynamic and “sharpest-shooting” back courts in the association this year with Steph Curry and Klay Thompson. A first round series win on Thursday night extends a really impressive season for Golden State in which had solid coaching (Mark Jackson), their first All Star selection since 1997 (David Lee) and a productive bench led by Jarrett Jack. (The Warriors should/could have had 2 allstars but that’s a discussion for another day).
The Denver Nuggets also had an awesome regular season. They won almost 60 games! (57). They had the best home record in the NBA 38-3, led the league in points-per-game and was widely feared as the deepest, fastest and most exciting team in the West with aspirations on reaching the Western Conference Finals.
In Game 1, the Nuggets won a thriller in front of their home crowd by 2 points on a game winner by Andre Miller. After game 1, the Nuggets should have seen the writing on the wall. In the regular season, they had a huge point differential, were number 2 in rebounding and 3rd in assists per game. In game 1, they were out-rebounded by 10. More importantly and more accurately they gave up 55 rebounds with is the most rebounds against the Nuggets in a playoff game in about 20 years.
In game 2, the Nuggets “officially” lost the series by surrendering the homecourt advantage that they worked hard for during the regular season. They were outrebounded again by 10 rebounds and gave up 131 points on their homecourt on 64% field goals percentage (not a typo 64% not 46%!) and 56% from 3 point range. They seemingly didn’t miss David Lee who was injured in game 1.
The Warriors averaged 118 points per game in the 3 middle games, games 2, 3 and 4. The Nuggets inability to defend Golden State’s shooters did them in this series. In addition, losing the rebounding battle and not getting the fastbreak points that they feasted on earlier in the season became their undoing.
In the 6th and final game, the Warriors started slow at home and scored only 40 first half points before erupting for 33 points in the 3rd quarter alone led by Steph Curry. David Lee pulled a “Willis Reed” return from what was season ending surgery! He only played 2 minutes and was an inspirational insertion into the game. The Warriors led by as many as 18 points and held off a furious comeback by the Nuggets who cut the lead to only 2 points with 32 seconds remaining. Warriors win and advance to the Western Conference semifinals.
The key point of this series might have been the instant defense improvement the Warriors received with David Lee not on the floor. This forced Coach Jackson to play Andrew Bogut for 40+ points and he flourished. His defense was key for Golden State, his rebounding numbers were Rodman-like and he protected the point with an assortment of blocks.
The Nuggets have lost in the first round 9 out of 10 times. This might put to bed the idea that a team with no “superstar/allstar” has a legitimate chance at an NBA title.
For now the Warriors move on!