Despite an impressive defensive effort, the Golden State Warriors were unable to overcome a playoff-career high 28 points from Andre Miller.
Known for his relative lack of athleticism, Miller was able to take advantage of Harrison Barnes’s inexperience in the post and Jarrett Jack’s lesser size, as well as the Warriors’ zone, which, contrary to the expected purpose of a zone, often left the middle unprotected.
In what could be a series altering incident, David Lee injured his right leg on a drive in the fourth quarter. The Warriors are reporting the injury as a “hip flexor strain,” and an MRI is scheduled for Sunday, according to CBS Sports.
This game will be remembered for Miller’s game-winning layup, but the Warriors may have lost themselves the game at the end of the third quarter.
With 2:25 left in the third quarter, following a Corey Brewer jump shot, a Lee screen freed Jack from Brewer. Jack beat the hedge, got into the lane, and elected to take his patented push floater over Javale McGee rather than pass to the open Landry, who McGee was helping off.
Jack, who finished the game 3-of-12, missed the floater, and on the following possession, missed a semi-contested deep three-pointer after a poorly executed Warriors possession. Miller then missed a baseline fade-away jumper off a post up of Klay Thompson. The Warriors scored to pull within two at 64-66.
Down two and only 50 seconds from the fourth quarter, the Warriors appeared to be in good position. A phrase common among NBA pundits is that, “good teams finish quarters well,” and in this instance, the Nuggets did just that. Miler set up Brewer for an open jumper that Brewer made, and left the Nuggets time for a second possession before the end of the quarter. Landry missed a pick-and-pop jumper, and Miller again found Brewer for a jumper, this time from an extra point warranting inch further back, and the Nuggets expanded their two point lead to seven heading into the fourth quarter.
Why The Warriors Lost
Andre Miller’s Dominance: Miller, who averaged 9.6 points per game for the season, was unexpectedly unstoppable to close the game. The Warriors used an array of defenders, ranging from the athletic Barnes, the quicker Jarrett Jack and, on the final possession, Draymond Green, but Miller scored regardless of who was defending him. Be it on a jerky up and under or an off-balance jumper, Miller was consistently able to prevent the Warriors from taking a commanding lead, following a Stephen Curry game-tying three, ended the game.
David Lee Injury: Lee, a staple of the Warriors’ end of game unit, was forced to the locker room with the previously mentioned injury. Though Lee struggled throughout the game, he was missed as the high-post hub of the Warriors’ offense, which struggled over the course of the quarter.
Stephen Curry’s Poor Shooting: Credit the Nuggets for consistently giving Curry as little space as possible.Though he did find a few open looks throughout the game, Curry was generally picked up by a defender, typically Ty Lawson, Andre Iguodala or Brewer.
The Nuggets were clearly committed to hedging hard on every Curry pick and roll, and had the personnel to do so effectively. Curry started the game missing all of his first five shots, and never appeared to be in full offensive rhythm. In a perhaps more impressive feat, the Nuggets defense did not allow Curry to attempt a field goal until the 5:58 mark of the first quarter. Curry’s struggles prevented the Warriors from taking advantage of an impressive defensive performance that they may be lucky to repeat.