Tuesday night’s win over the Denver Nuggets proved that the Golden State Warriors still have life in them. Without David Lee, the Warriors were able to bring the series back to Oracle tied at 1-1.
The Warriors are only one of two teams that won on the road in the first two games of this year’s playoffs. Posting 131 points against Denver, they shot the lights out at a franchise playoff record of 64.6 percent from the field and an unbelievable 56 percent from three-point land. Stephen Curry posted 30 points accompanied with 13 assists. Also, the Dubs were able to win the battle of the boards even with the return of Denver’s star rebounding machine, Kenneth Faried.
Coming into the 2012-13 season, the Warriors were given a zero percent chance at making the playoffs. Now, short-handed due to injuries, many doubted them making it out of the first round. However, with the turn of events, the Warriors now have home court advantage, giving them the opportunity to take the series 3-1 before heading back to the mile high city. Can the Warriors dethrone the Nuggets?
With the efficient play of the trio in the back court–Curry, Jarrett Jack and Klay Thompson–the Warriors are in great hands in terms of scoring the ball. The absence of an inside scoring presence leaves them with a hole that needs to be filled. In order for Golden State to pose any threat in this series, there are three X-factors that can make or break the team’s chances of advancing in the playoffs.
Fifteen minutes before the game, coach Mark Jackson made the decision to start Jarrett Jack and slid Harrison Barnes to the power forward position. At first, Jackson thought it was a crazy idea, but he had no regrets after the game. Barnes’s career night game showed that he is a versatile forward that can play inside and out. His quickness and pursuit to missed shots makes up for the loss of a rebounding presence.
During the regular season, Barnes showed flashes of greatness, but he also showed glimpses of inconsistency. The Warriors are 28-8 when Barnes scores double digits. In game one of the series, Barnes scored just eight points in a two point loss to the Nuggets. However, in-game two, he contributed with 24 points in a Golden State win. Not a stranger to the big stage, expect the former Tar Heel to step up his game for the remainder of this series.
The vacancy of a low-post presence is open for any Warriors player to fill. Andrew Bogut has the size but is unable to finish around the basket consistently. Looking down the bench, a key piece to provide a post-up game would be Carl Landry. Averaging 10.8 points per game, Landry supplies instant offense off the bench. His ability to score mirrors the tendencies of Lee. Landry’s scoring ranges from an elbow jumper to a three-foot hook shot.
In his 2007-08 rookie season with the Houston Rockets, Landry found himself in the same predicament as today. Rockets’ former star, Yao Ming, was out due to injury. Landry was a key player in Houston’s 22 game winning streak and playoff berth that season. Although Jackson started Jarrett Jack in Game 2, do not be surprised to see Landry in the lineup at some point in the series.
In recent news, Denver Nuggets head coach George Karl made it clear that he was unhappy with the play of starting center Kosta Koufus. Karl claimed that the chances of a change at center would be “enough to bet on in Vegas” (Denver Post). Could there be a possibility of McGee starting in place of Koufus? Or could Denver go small with Faried and Wilson Chandler at the four and five?
Playing with limited minutes in Game 2, Faried is expected to receive an increase in his minutes as the series progresses. Regardless of his decision, Coach Jackson must be aware of the changes to Denver’s big men. Bogut has shown to be a solid interior defender; however, his athleticism may hinder the Dubs’ defense against the fast break. To match the upbeat tempo of Faried and McGee, Warriors’ Festus Ezeli may see more time on the court during the series. His lateral speed and ability to run the floor can provide Golden State a defender on the break. Relying on a rookie to play a key role on the defensive end may be risky, but matching speed with speed may be the smart thing to do.
The possibility of an upset from the sixth-seed Warriors lie in the hands of its role players. The sharpshooting duo, Curry and Thompson, have played consistent thus far. With home court advantage for Friday and Sunday, Golden State can be favored to win the series by game 5 or 6. UPSET ALERT!