Mark Jackson had two days off to figure out what to do with the gaping hole in his roster. David Lee’s season-ending hip injury left Golden State without their starting power forward and left most casual observers and some very astute observers (Zach Lowe of Grantland among them) fearing that their chances for an upset had evaporated into the thin mountain air of Colorado after hearing the news.
The Warriors, already crossing their fingers for a rare stretch of health from defensive monster Andrew Bogut, were now extremely small. It was assumed Carl Landry would attempt to fill the 4-spot for Lee. Though Landry doesn’t offer the versatility of Lee’s elbow game, he is a capable low-post scorer who was helpful in previous playoff performances for Houston and New Orleans.
Instead of making the safe choice, Jackson went with his gut, which told him to insert rookie Harrison Barnes into the starting lineup, and go small. Barnes’ open-court speed, his athleticism, and his slashing ability are all assets. Picked 7th overall in last year’s draft, Barnes’ jumper is anything but consistent.
This year, Barnes shot 36% from distance, but the results varied widely from month-to-month. On a team with two of the best shooters in the game, Barnes’ 3-pointer appeared woefully inconsistent. Basketball reference shows Barnes is a typical corner-3 specialist, who struggles from beyond 22 feet.
Maybe Jackson’s hunch was based on Barnes’ ability to keep pace with Denver’s furious tempo. Maybe he watched a loop of those two top-of-the-key treys in Game 1. Either way, Harrison Barnes rewarded Jackson and the Warriors with a scintillating 9 of 14 performance, knocking down 4 of 7 from distance and all three of his mid-range jumpers, en route to a 24-point outburst.
To focus only on Barnes, though, would overshadow what was a historic shooting night for the Golden State. Playoff teams do not shoot 55% from the field. They almost never hit the 60% mark. Last night, Golden State finished 51 of 79 from the field. 64.6%. You have to go back to 1991 to find a team shooting that well (Utah Jazz) in a playoff game. Denver came into the game on a 24-game home-winning streak. Like hitters at Coors Field, playing at the Pepsi Center is unique. When playing the fastest team in the league, that mile above sea level ain’t no fun. Denver’s athleticism and depth had been too much for 24-straight teams to handle.
From the opening tip, all five Warriors were on a mission. You want to run? Let’s run? We’re not worried about keeping pace with you, like every other team in the association. Nope. You see if you can keep pace with us. Ty Lawson was ready. One of the more electrifying little guys in the league, Lawson finished with 19 points, and 12 assists to only 1 turnover. The ageless wonder Andre Miller helped, collecting 18 points, 5 assists, and 5 rebounds in his typically efficient manner—a mere 9 field goal attempts. By the end of the first, Thompson was 5 of 6, Jack was 4 of 4, and even Bogut had made both of his attempts. It was Curry who came out of the gate slightly too amped up again, going 1 of 5 in the opening stanza.
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