Now that’s more like it.
The Warriors stole home court advantage tonight, defeating the Nuggets 131-117 on their home floor while shooting an absurd 65 percent from the field and 56 percent from long distance. It was the first time the Nuggets had lost at home since January 18. Not bad for a team that many counted out after losing their lone All-Star David Lee for the remainder of the playoffs. Not bad at all.
It almost seems unfair to highlight individual performances in what was truly a thorough team victory, but that’s not due to a lack of a selection to choose from. Quite the opposite actually. You could start with Stephen Curry, who showed the world once again why he lays claim to being the greatest shooter on the planet after draining four threes on his way to a clutch 30-point performance. Then there was Klay Thompson, who carried the Warriors in the early going with the first seven points of the game, and ended with 21 on 8-of-11 shooting.
But perhaps even more important to the outcome of this tremendous victory were two guys who were put in unusual positions as a result of David Lee’s injury. First and foremost, Jarrett Jack filled Lee’s vacancy in the starting lineup, as the Dubs began the contest going small-ball. After Andre Miller had his way with him in Game 1, you could tell Jack was out there to prove something…and prove it he did. It wasn’t just the 26 points on an efficient 10-of-15 shooting, nor was it simply the seven assists he dished out along the way. No, it was Jack being Jack. He calmed the Warriors, he made some clutch shots, and most of all, he led by example. That’s exactly the kind of performance Mark Jackson had hoped for when he inserted Jack into the starting lineup, and Jackson deserves credit for trusting in one of his vets.
But really, this was the Harrison Barnes Show. Not only did he set a new career-high with 24 points (the first 20-point game by a Warriors’ rookie since Billy Owens in 1992), he was by far the most electric player on the court, and that’s saying something when you realize Ty Lawson is wearing the opposite jersey. Moved to the power forward position in the Warriors’ small-ball lineup, Barnes’ proved equal to the task of matching up against the likes of Wilson Chandler, and actually, thoroughly outplayed him. Sure, shooting 9-of-14 from the field is mighty impressive for a 20-year old rookie in only his second career playoff game. But if that’s impressive, someone is going to have to create a new word to describe that ridiculous reverse two-handed jam he threw down on Anthony Randolph.
If the Warriors were going to win this game, this was exactly the way it had to be done. Yes, the Warriors won’t mind Curry and Thompson taking as many of their shots as possible, but those two become exponentially more effective all-around players when the opposition has to respect their teammates. With the Splash Brothers, Jack and Barnes firing on all cylinders, it forced the Nuggets to pick their poison, and each option proved equally deadly.
It was just a magnificent performance by the Dubs when they needed it most, and in the process, they flipped this series on its’ head. Not only is stealing a game in the league’s toughest building a huge confidence builder for a young team in need of one, but now the Warriors return home with the chance to truly take control of this series. It certainly won’t be easy, and you can count on the Nuggets coming out strong when Game 3 begins on Friday night. But it’s much better than the alternative, and you can bet the Warriors would take that in a heartbeat.