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Veteran Andre Miller leads Nuggets past Warriors in Game 1

By Aaron J. Lopez, Nuggets.com

Posted April 20 2013 20:58

He got hit in the face, tossed to the ground and elbowed in the low post.

Determined to get the first playoff series win of his career, Andre Miller wasn’t about to be denied.

Miller scored a career playoff-high 28 points, including the game-winning layup with 1.3 seconds left to lift the Denver Nuggets to a 97-95 victory over the Golden State Warriors in Game 1 of their Western Conference playoff series Saturday.

“I have never hit a game-winning shot – never,” the 37-year-old Miller said. “I’ve taken a couple and missed or turned the ball over. That was big for our first playoff game.”

Behind Miller’s 18 fourth-quarter points, the Nuggets extended their dominance at Pepsi Center and grabbed their first series-opening win since 2010.

Denver, 38-3 during the regular season, now has won 24 consecutive home games. Game 2 set for Tuesday night.

“I am always encouraged,” Nuggets coach George Karl said. “I believe so much that winning tough games is tough-mindedness. Our personality is young but we believe, we trust, we fight. Would I like to have an easier game? Hell yeah, I would like to have an easier game. But playoff basketball is not about easy games.”

The Warriors led by as many as nine points in the second half but succumbed to Denver’s defensive pressure. They committed 12 second-half turnovers, including a steal and layup by Ty Lawson that gave Denver a 95-92 lead with 35.7 seconds to play.

Golden State tied the game on Stephen Curry’s 3-pointer from the corner with 14.5 remaining, prompting Karl to call a timeout to set up a final play.

“Coach was going through all the plays. We were looking at each other,” Denver forward Corey Brewer said “Andre was hot. We were kind of like, ‘Why don’t we just get out of the way and let Andre have the ball?’ ”

Miller got the ball on a handoff from JaVale McGee and sized up Golden State rookie Draymond Green near the top of the key.

As the clock went under 5 seconds, Miller drove left and then used the rim as protection while shooting a layup on the right side of the paint.

The Warriors were out of timeouts and Curry failed to get a shot off from beyond half court as time expired.

The entire Nuggets team immediately ran to Miller and mobbed him like a baseball player who just hit a walk-off homer.

“It felt good,” Miller said. “Like I said, I’ve never hit a game-winning shot before. I don’t think both teams wanted to go to overtime after that type of game. There was a lot of energy and both teams were tired. We were just happy to get that win.”

While Miller scored from just about everywhere and finished 11-for-16 from the field, his teammates combined to shoot 27-for-69 (.391).

Denver made up for the offensive struggles by containing Curry for most of the night. After setting an NBA record with 272 3-pointers during the season, Curry was 1-for-10 in the first half and finished 7-for-20 from the field.

“We had great looks, myself included,” Curry said. “I had good looks. I think I might have forced one shot when I rushed it but for the most part, I felt good about every shot I took.”

The Nuggets survived without starting power forward Kenneth Faried, who was in uniform but didn’t play because of a sprained left ankle.

The Warriors ran into a tough injury of their own, losing starting power forward David Lee to a strained right hip flexor in the first minute of the fourth quarter. An MRI is scheduled for Sunday.

“It is unfortunate,” Golden State coach Mark Jackson said. “He is certainly a highlighted guy for us, somebody we count on. At the same time, we prepared all season long. We believe in our guys top to bottom. So we feel comfortable and confident in whoever has to step up in his place, and we are, and always will be, a no-excuse basketball team.”

The Nuggets have taken the same approach as they play without Faried and starting small forward Danilo Gallinari, who is out for the playoffs after tearing the ACL in his left knee.

Rookie Evan Fournier has stepped in and played well (he had 11 points in his playoff debut), while Anthony Randolph also contributed down the stretch.

But it was Miller who led the charge in Game 1 as he tries to advance out of the first round for the first time in nine playoff appearances.

“I fell into some good playoff series where we had the series won and the tables turned.” Miller said. “I played on some solid teams where I thought we could get out of the first round. I think this is probably the best opportunity for this team to get out of the first round. This is definitely a good opportunity.”

Miller certainly improved Denver’s chances.

Since 1984, the team winning Game 1 of the first round has gone on to win the series 81 percent of the time (188-44).

“That’s just the beginning; one win is a good start,” Karl said. “I think Golden State is showing that they are going to play on the same level as us and we are going to have to continue to get better and find other ways to win games.”

STAR OF THE GAME

Andre Miller

Points 28 11-16 FG, 5-7 FT
Rebounds 3, 1 OFF 2 DEF
Assists 5
Steals 1
Blocks 0
GAME LEADERS
Points Andre Miller 28
Rebounds Andre Bogut, David Lee 14
Assists Stephen Curry 10
Steals Andre Iguodala, Ty Lawson 3
Blocks Andrew Bogut 4
QUOTE OF THE NIGHT

Nuggets forward Corey Brewer on teammate Andre Miller

"I’m never surprised with Andre Miller. I say he’s unguardable. They always talk about guys like Kobe (Bryant), LeBron (James). If you give Andre Miller the ball, he’s one of the toughest guys to guard in the NBA."

KEY MOMENT

Nuggets close third quarter strong to take momentum into the fourth

Corey Brewer hit three long jumpers and scored seven points as part of a 13-2 run to close the third quarter. The surge gave the Nuggets a seven-point lead heading to the fourth.
VIDEO RECAP

Postgame Quotes

Nuggets coach George Karl

On the game:
“On a night like tonight, I just have to say an incredible play by Andre [Miller]. I just love him. The only other thing I wish I would have had was a timeout or two to rest him. It was a really intense game. Both teams played extremely engaged and were well-prepared. We didn’t shoot the ball with much confidence all night long. We won one tonight because of Andre Miller and our defense. Most of the time, we did a pretty good job with [Golden State]’s shooters. That was a hell of a shot by Stephen Curry at the end. That’s just the beginning; one win is a good start. I think Golden State is showing that they are going to play on the same level as us and we are going to have to continue to get better and find other ways to win games.”

On if Andre Miller’s final play was planned:
“Wilson [Chandler] and I talked a little about running a slip because [Golden State] was probably going to switch any pick-and-roll that we threw at them. We played it with [Andrew] Bogut and I think Andre might have instructed [the team] that he just wanted to go. I know they were whispering to each other as they were going out. I wanted Andre with the ball and I wanted Ty [Lawson] on one side and Wilson [Chandler] on the other side; if something failed, they would have found somebody.”

On if this win is encouraging or represents that this series could be a struggle:
“I am always encouraged; I believe so much that winning tough games is tough-mindedness. Our personality is young but we believe, we trust, we fight. Would I like to have an easier game? Hell yeah, I would like to have an easier game. But playoff basketball is not about easy games. It just doesn’t happen unless you have a totally lopsided situation. We are trying to figure out our personality without Kenneth [Faried] and again, Andre Miller was the man tonight.”

Nuggets forward Wilson Chandler

On Andre Miller’s play tonight:
“He played great. We really leaned on him tonight. Thank God for him tonight.

On defense on Stephen Curry:
“We just tried to take away his three-ball. We made him take tough twos, and I think it worked for the most part. He hit a couple of tough threes, but for the most part, I think Ty [Lawson] did a great job on him.”

On team defense played against Warriors:
“I think we played great [defense] tonight. It was definitely one of our best defensive games, and next game we just have to make our shots.”

On Andre Miller taking last shot:
“We had a lot of confidence. He has made big shots throughout his career. We are comfortable with him having the ball more than anybody.”

On importance of winning first game:
“It is very important to get the first win to set the tone for the series. Like I said, we missed a lot of shots that we would normally make so I’m not really worried about the shots as long as we play good defense.”

Nuggets point guard Andre Miller

On his final shot:
“I have never hit a game-winning shot; never. I’ve taken a couple and missed or turned the ball over. That was big for our first playoff game.”

On if he or Ty Lawson were taking the shot:
“I was tired, actually. I think both teams were tired. Ty and I were going back and forth on who was going to get the ball. ‘You bring it. I’ll bring it,’ I just had to suck it up and know who put in the pick-and-roll to get to my sweet spot. I just took the shot.”

On the team rushing him after the game:
“They still call me ‘Old Hair’. It felt good, like I said, I’ve never hit a game-winning shot before. I don’t think both teams wanted to go to overtime after that type of game. There was a lot of energy and both teams were tired. We were just happy to get that win.” On the team’s confidence:
“Good thing is we’ve got a deep team. Wilson [Chandler] came out and played a solid job on David Lee. We could have contested their looks a little bit. Like I said, we’re an up tempo team so we want to take advantage of this altitude. They slowed us down for a second with the zone. We just have to stick to what we do and still be attacking the basket. It definitely is a confidence booster. Our last five games at the end of the season teams were slowing us down a little bit. It was a lot of ugly basketball. Both teams were tired. We were just dragging out there, but we found a way to control the boards and control our turnovers and luckily the game went our way.”

On having never won a playoff series:
“Never. I’ve never won a playoff series. I fell into some good playoff series where we had the series won and the tables turned. I played on some solid teams where I thought we could get out of the first round. I think this is probably the best opportunity for this team to get out of the first round. This is definitely a good opportunity.”

On the offense:
“I just was waiting to see how the game was going. Both teams were tired. Actually, our team gets our confidence from easy baskets and forcing turnovers. Sometimes we get that, other times we’ve got to start with some jump shots. We could have easily went down eight or 12 points. We found a way to stick in it. I had some shots that came to me. I knew they wouldn’t leave Wilson and Andrew Bogut wouldn’t come out of the paint. I had to take those shots.”

Warriors coach Mark Jackson

On the message he had for his team after the loss:
“I thought we did some things very well. Rebounding, defending, we shared the basketball. There are some things we have to do a better job at but at the end of the day, what I told my team was that nobody came in here thinking that we were going to sweep the Denver Nuggets. You have to win four games to advance and you can’t act like it’s over so take the blow and be ready to make adjustments and respond.”

On if he was surprised that the ball went to Andre Miller given Denver’s other athletic players:
“No. The type of game he was having, carried him at times and he made some tough plays, even that last one was a tough play. That’s who he is. He has made a living doing that so I wasn’t surprised at all.”

On the pace of the game:
“It played out well I thought. I thought we had a very good performance of executing our game plan. We made plays, we made shots, we defended. I thought in the first half we got some great looks, we just couldn’t find the rim. But overall, we kept a body on [the Nuggets]; we were physical. I thought at times we were a little careless but that’s to be expected with a young basketball team. I am proud of my guys; we put ourselves in a position to win the ball game but unfortunately, we fell short.”

On the potential absence of David Lee:
“It is unfortunate. He is certainly a highlighted guy for us, somebody we count on. At the same time, we prepared all season long. We believe in our guys to the bottom. So we feel comfortable and confident to whoever has to step up in his place, and we are, and always will be, a no-excuse basketball team.”

Warriors guard Jarrett Jack

On the challenge of guarding Andre Miller at 37 years old:
“The age number doesn’t really have anything to do with it. He is a very crafty veteran and he specializes in what he does. I think that is what has allowed him to play as long as he has and be effective as long as he has. He does a great job of getting to his spots on the floor and trying to capitalize.”

On if it’s settling that they accomplished the things that they wanted to in this game:
“We are not into moral victories. In a simple phrase, we play good enough to lose, so to speak. We did some good things, we did some things that we need to get better at. For the most part, I thought we did played our plan and it was successful; not turning the ball over, not allowing [the Nuggets] to score in fast-break points and making them score in the half-court.”

Warriors point guard Stephen Curry

On if he saw Ty Lawson steal coming at the end of the game:
“No, [the Nuggets] switched the down pick for me at the elbow and I was waiting for a pick-and-roll for the play that we designed in the huddle and [Ty Lawson] made a good defensive play and caught me off guard and obviously finished off at the other end. It is just an individual making a good defensive play when they needed it.”

On the looks that Golden State had in the first half:
“We had great looks, myself included. I had good looks. I think I might have forced one shot when I rushed it but for the most part, I felt good about every shot I took. Every guy in the locker room was talking about that at half time; we all had decent looks at the basket so just to continue our offense and continue to be aggressive and shots would start following and that’s what happened in the second half. The ball was moving pretty well throughout the course of the game.”

On if it is more difficult to guard the Nuggets because they don’t have a superstar:
“I think it makes it easier. Everybody on the court has to worry about their individual matchup and you just stick to your natural game plan of your defense. You know where the hell you are supposed to be; you don’t really have to double-team much like with a guy that can just drop into the post. We like to just stay solid, trust our one-on-one.”

POSTGAME NOTES

INDIVIDUAL

• Andre Miller led all scorers with 28 points and five assists. It is only the third time that the veteran has reached those numbers in a postseason game in his career (first time since 4/18/10 @PHO). Additionally, he becomes only the second Nugget to post those numbers coming off the bench in a playoff game since Earl Boykins on 5/2/05 vs. SAS (32 points and five assists). He is only the 11th player in the NBA to accomplish this since 1986 and the first to do it in less than 30 minutes.

• Miller scored 18 of Denver’s 26 fourth-quarter points in the win. He becomes only the fourth Nugget in the last 15 years (1998-99 to 2012-13) to score 18+ in a quarter during a playoff game. He joins Joey Graham (4/30/10 @ UTA), JR Smith (4/17/10 vs. UTA) and Chauncey Billups (4/19/09 vs. NOH).

• Andre Iguodala turned in a complete performance by recording eight points, 10 rebounds and five assists. It marks the first time in his career that he has reached those numbers in a playoff game.

• Wilson Chandler recorded his first career playoff double-double by scoring 11 points and grabbing 13 rebounds. Both numbers are new playoff career highs for the forward, besting his previous best of nine points (4/17/11 @ OKC) and eight rebounds (4/17/11 @ OKC).

• Corey Brewer scored 10 points off the bench en route to his fourth career double-digit playoff game (all with Denver).

• David Lee recorded his first career playoff double-double tonight by scoring 10 points and finishing with 14 rebounds. Lee led the NBA in double-doubles during the regular season.

• Stephen Curry scored 19 points and dished out nine assists tonight after starting 0-of-9 from the field. Curry becomes the first Warrior to hit those numbers in a playoff game since Baron Davis on 5/11/07 vs. UTA (32 points, nine assists).

• Klay Thompson led the Warriors with 22 points in tonight’s game. He becomes the youngest Warrior to score 22+ in a playoff game since Rick Barry scored 44 points on 4/24/67 (when the franchise was the San Francisco Warriors).

TEAM

• The Nuggets moved to 1-0 in their first round series against the Warriors … Denver has now won nine of their 10 opening games when they’ve held home-court advantage in the first round (won each of the last nine).

• Denver handed out just 16 assists tonight, their first time winning a playoff game with 16-or-fewer assists since 5/9/09 at Dallas (had 15 that game).

• The Nuggets were outrebounded 55 to 45 in tonight’s game … Denver had lost 24 straight playoff games when being outrebounded by 10+ before tonight (last such win came on 4/22/84 vs. UTA when they were outrebounded 54 to 41).

• The Warriors outrebounded the Nuggets 16-6 in the fourth quarter and their 55 total rebounds was the most by a Nuggets’ opponent in the playoffs since Utah had 58 on 5/17/94.

• Denver committed nine turnovers in the first half and just two in the second while Golden State had six in the first half and 12 in the second.

• The Nuggets scored just five second chance points tonight. Their season-low this season was six on two occasions.

• Denver’s starters scored 48 points tonight while their bench registered 49 points.