Three-Pointers: Warriors take offense to another level to beat Nuggets
The Warriors defeated the Nuggets 131-117 on Tuesday in Game 2 of a first-round Western Conference playoff series. The two teams will head to Oakland, Calif., for Game 3 on Friday with the series tied at one game apiece.
• A shooting performance for the ages. Wow, I need to sit down. Playing without injured power forward David Lee, Golden State put on an absolute shooting clinic in Denver, producing a box score that should drop jaws and pop eyes out of their sockets: 64.6 percent shooting as a team, 56 percent shooting from three-point range and the 131 points, which marked a season high and is essentially unheard of for a road team during the playoffs.
Before we pay off the historical context, just glance at this humorous chart, which shows the road team’s scoring outputs so far during the postseason.
If there’s been one major storyline over the first four days of the playoffs, it’s been the dominance of the higher seeds, who collectively are 11-2. The subplot in that storyline is that the road teams have really, really struggled to score. This season, the median points per game among the 30 NBA teams was 97, with every team averaging at least 93.2 points. In the playoffs, no road team besides the Warriors has been able to crack 91 points. That makes Tuesday’s 131-point explosion stick out like a sore thumb.
This wasn’t just an outlier among the limited sample of 2013 playoff games. The last time a road team scored 131 or more points in a regulation (non-overtime) playoff game was 1995, when a Rockets team that went on to win the Finals and featured Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler scored 140 points against the Jazz in Utah. If you sat there blinking your eyes every time Stephen Curry (30 points on 23 shots), Klay Thompson (21 points on 11 shots) and Harrison Barnes (24 points on 14 shots) knocked down a jumper, wondering if you were actually seeing what you were seeing, take note that you just watched something that hasn’t happened in nearly 20 years.
To top that off, no team — home or away — has shot 64-plus percent in a postseason game since 1991, when the Jazz, led by Karl Malone and John Stockton, hit 65 percent to defeat the Suns.
OK, deep breath. This really was something else. When the Warriors announced that Lee would be out for the season with a hip injury suffered in Game 1, The Point Forward noted, way down at the end of the sixth paragraph, that small-ball lineups might be a way to cope with their All-Star power forward’s absence. Undersold that possibility just a touch.
• All Hail Harrison Barnes. In March, The Point Forward suggested a “long moment of appreciation” for Barnes was in order, as he was the only member of the 2012 draft class to find himself as a full-time starter on a playoff team. His play on Tuesday night was worthy of several more rounds of applause. His spectacular reverse slam will lead the highlight shows, but it was his unflappability and versatility that made this work. Swinging up from the three to the four, Barnes defended and rebounded his position just fine while hitting a number of timely second-half baskets to keep the Nuggets — who still hit 117 points, by the way — at bay.
What made this performance even sweeter: Barnes spent the bulk of his two seasons in college tagged as a player who failed to live up to massive expectations created during a dominant prep career. Here, the inverse: It’s hard for a 20-year-old rookie to exceed expectations in the postseason more than Barnes.
• Not the ankle, again. On a night of unadulterated celebration for Warriors fans, there was one scary moment. Curry, troubled by ankle problems throughout his four-year career, badly rolled his left ankle late in the third quarter.
The injury occurred as he attempted to plant to pass out of a double team on the perimeter, and it briefly forced him from the game. Curry later re-entered and made a three-pointer, and he said in a postgame interview that he thought he had avoided any serious problem.
“It’s fine,” Curry said. “It’s my other one. I’ve had so much trouble with the right one and the left one is jealous. I’ll be all right.”
Indeed, Curry’s right ankle required surgery in 2012.
The good news for the Warriors is that their leading scorer will have two days to rest and recuperate, if necessary, in advance of Game 3.