Not since the 1991 Utah Jazz has a team shot as well in a postseason game as the Golden State Warriors did on Tuesday night.
With Stephen Curry (30 points), Jarrett Jack (26), Harrison Barnes (24) and Klay Thompson (21) all topping 20 points on the night, the Warriors dropped 131 on the head of the Nuggets who suffered just their fourth home loss of the last year. With shooters like Thompson and Curry in the lineup, it isn’t too shocking that the Warriors were capable of shooting 64.6%, but the Nuggets lack of defense was a bit of a surprise.
By no means are the Nuggets one of the best defensive teams in the league, but giving up that many points was a season worst for the Nuggets and prompted coach George Karl to tell NBA.com afterward: “We didn't do much of anything very well. I don't think I ever coached a game when a team got three 35-point quarters, maybe in my career, ever.”
The Nuggets are the clear favorite in this series, especially with David Lee out thanks to a torn right hip flexor, but they were caught off guard by the productivity of Barnes. Sinking big buckets and competing for boards with Denver’s big men, Barnes was crucial in this game. How he reacts as Karl makes his adjustments could be a major determining factor as this series plays out in the Bay Area for the next two games.
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The Nuggets have been outrebounded by double digits in each of the first two games of the series, but with Lee out of the lineup, Warriors coach Mark Jackson is likely going to go small with his lineup placing Barnes at the power forward position. Kenneth Faried will likely return to the starting lineup in game 3 and there will be lots more opportunities to pick up boards as the Warriors almost certainly will not shoot like that again, but it’s time for George Karl to get more minutes to a player that has a grander impact than guys currently starting for the Nuggets.
Karl clearly likes Kostas Koufos for some reason, but he brings little to nothing to the lineup. In game 2, he provided two rebounds and one steal, but nothing else. While Karl wants to keep a second line of JaVale McGee and Andre Miller intact, it’s time he admit that McGee is a much bigger impact player and rim defender than Koufos and insert him into the starting lineup.
It doesn’t mean keeping Miller on the bench necessarily, but in the interest of providing a solid second line and to defend against Klay Thompson, it entails starting Wilson Chandler as the two guard instead of Evan Fournier as he did in game 2. The rookie Frenchman is capable of making an impact off the bench as he often did toward the end of the regular season, but by shoving Chandler in Thompson’s face, it creates a tougher matchup for the young guard to exploit.
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Fournier, Corey Brewer and Andre Miller can come off the bench to create a solid second line with Koufos at the center and Anthony Randolph playing power forward. The Nuggets have incredible depth and options in their lineup, but in my opinion, these two lines offer them the size and athleticism they are going to need to push the Warriors around in the paint and reverse that rebounding advantage.
Regardless of what the Nuggets do in the backcourt, stopping Thompson and Curry is going to be difficult, but a duo of Chandler and Ty Lawson offers plenty of experience and defensive ability. The key piece, however, is McGee starting and blocking shots.
While Andrew Bogut’s impact for the Warriors is limited, he’s beating Denver on the boards averaging 11 rebounds per game in the first two contests. Rebounding and improving interior scoring by acting like the best team in the league in terms of points in the paint is where the Nuggets get back on track and McGee can help them do that. It means splitting him and pick and roll partner Miller up for a significant amount of minutes, but it could prove the difference in the series.