Here is a precursor to the types of grades you can expect after the Golden State Warriors’ Game 2 victory against the Denver Nuggets. For those of you unfamiliar with NBA.com’s shot charts, green means good, and in this case, historically good.
Prior to Tuesday’s game, Denver was 29-3 at home, including the game one victory over the Warriors. Without David Lee, the Warriors would need an incredible performance to even the series. The Warriors responded by shooting 64.6 percent from the field with a 73.4 percent adjusted field goal percentage. Bitter graduates can blame grade inflation all they want, the Warriors earned these marks.
Stephen Curry: A-
Though he scared Warriors fans, and likely all basketball fans, with an ankle injury in the third quarter, Curry’s creation was key to the Warriors’ victory.
Following a 1-for-6 start, Curry made 12 of his final 17 shot attempts. The Nuggets seemed less aggressive in trapping Curry out of pick and rolls, and he took advantage of the extra space. Kenneth Faried returned from an ankle injury, and clearly had not recovered entirely. He appeared far less laterally mobile than usual, and Curry took advantage of Fareid out of pick and rolls after struggling to do the same to Javale McGee, who played only 14 minutes, in the first game of the series.
Curry consistently made excellent decisions, recording 13 assists and only one turnover. He scored 30 points on 23 shot attempts at a 65.2 percent true-shooting percentage, and only missed the A, and likely A+ because he struggled to keep Ty Lawson out of the lane, which allowed Denver to keep the game close enough to stress the most paranoid Warriors fans until the final couple minutes.
Klay Thompson: A+
Thompson scored 21 points on 95.5 percent true shooting. If that’s not impressive enough, much of it was done while guarded by Andre Iguodala. Thompson made 5-of-6 three-point attempts–many surprisingly open, as Denver scrambled to defend Curry and Jarrett Jack in the pick and roll.
Jarret Jack: A
Replacing David Lee in the starting lineup, Jack played 43 minutes in which he scored efficiently and created for others. He made 10 of his 15 field goal attempts, and consistently penetrated the Nuggets defense, opening up opportunities for Thompson, Curry and Harrison Barnes. In short, he provided consistent offense pressure to compliment Curry and Thompson’s long-range barrage.
Harrison Barnes: A+
In one of his most impressive games of the year, Harrison Barnes scored a career-high 24 points on 9-of-14 shooting, and displayed the dynamic skills he sporadically flashed through the season.
“Be aggressive” is a sort of cure-all ointment in the NBA. From inspired player speeches to facetious Gregg Popovich mid-game interviews, “be aggressive” is often repeated as the solution to any difficult situation, especially in Barnes’ case.
In his first start at nominal power forward, Barnes repeatedly attacked the basket, took advantage of mismatches, and, key for a player often left open by helping Nuggets defenders, made open shots. David Lee will play the vast majority of power forward minutes next season, but Barnes success, albeit against the small-forward sized Wilson Chandler, bodes well for future use of small ball lineups.
Andrew Bogut: B-
Bogut played well defensively, and without Kosta Koufos or McGee consistently running the pick and roll, the Nuggets did little to expose his mobility issues. Bogut was in foul trouble throughout the game, and only played 22 minutes, limiting his total impact, but his defensive performance was a positive sign for the Warriors inconsistent defense.
Carl Landry and Draymond Green each played 18 minutes, and Festus Ezeli added 16. The bench played effectively in its limited role, but Mark Jackson generally rode the success of the starting lineup. Though the Nuggets appeared invincible on their home court, the biggest upset of the day may have been Green, a 20.9 percent shooter from beyond the arc, making a semi-important three pointer.