The Denver Nuggets took game one against the Golden State Warriors behind a heroic performance from 37-year-old Andre Miller. Miller scored 28 points, including the game winning go-ahead layup with time running out, and dished out five assists off the bench.
It must be said: the game didn’t start off the way many expected it to.
Many expected high flying, high scoring NBA basketball — but that’s not what we got (at first). The first half was sloppy and a little, shall I say, boring. That’s not to say that bodies weren’t flying up-and-down the court, because they were, but shots weren’t going in at the rate most fan expected.
The Warriors shot just 38.8 percent in the first half; the Nuggets shot just 39.5 percent. Golden State guard and NBA leader in single season 3-pointers Stephen Curry finished with just four points in the first half, shooting 1-of-10 from the field. Nuggets points guard Ty Lawson scored four points himself and was just 2-of-6 from the field. The half ended 48-44, in the Warriors favor.
But the second half was entirely different.
Corey Brewer changed the game for the Nuggets in the third: deflecting passes, putting pressure on the defense and scoring (yes, scoring) with ease. Brewer knocked down a 3-pointer and a long two (originally ruled a three) in a 14-2 run to end the quarter for the Denver Nuggets. The Nuggets shot 12-of-23 and turned the ball over once in the quarter. The Warriors shot 7-of-23 and committed six turnovers. Denver led 71-64 heading into the final 12 minutes.
The Warriors’ David Lee injured his right hip in the first 30 seconds of the fourth quarter and was helped to the bench after making his second of two free throws. The Nuggets held the advantage after the first half but Golden State tied the game up at 81 after a Corey Brewer missed 3-pointer and a transition layup with just under seven minutes left to play.
The last two minutes were a back-and-forth affair, with the Warriors closing the gap behind a series of Andrew Bogut hustle plays.
The Warriors trailed 93-92 with 44.5 seconds left to play. The ball was in-bounded to Jarrett Jack who swung the ball to Curry on the right wing. Wilson Chandler stepped out to challenge Curry off a down screen and Lawson, who trailed the play, went behind Curry to poke the ball loose and finished a left handed layup over Bogut in transition, giving the Nuggets a 95-92 lead.
Golden State was unable to get anything going on the ensuing possession and called a timeout. Out of the timeout, Mark Jackson called the Warriors patent “elevator play” but it was shut down. Instead, Bogut set Jarrett Jack an on-ball screen and Jack found Curry in the left corner. Curry dribbled to his right, pump faked and got Lawson to bite just slightly, giving Curry just enough room to take an extra dribble to his left and nail a fade away 3-pointer in the corner to tie the game at 95 with 14.5 seconds left.
George Karl called a timeout. And who did he give the ball to? No one other than the 37-year-young Andre Miller. Miller was defended by Warriors’ rookie Draymond Green — that’s when his eyes lit up. Miller isolated at the top of the key, with four seconds left he made his move. Miller hesitated, then crossed from right to left, putting the rookie Green on his hip. Miller made a a hop step back to his right and used the rim as his protection, finishing the game-winning-layup with his right hand with just over a second left. The Warriors, out of timeouts, threw up a full court shot to no avail.
Fans expected a fun, fast paced series from these two teams and though it took an entire half, it looks like that’s exactly what they’ll get.
For the Nuggets:
- It’s extremely encouraging to see Andre Miller play the way he did on Saturday. His defense left some to be desired as he gave up a few easy buckets but his offense made up for that, and some.
- Javale McGee looks playoff ready. He gave good minutes and played poised, scoring 9 points on a perfect 4-of-4 from the floor, plus he gave us this highlight.
- Rebounding was a problem. The Warriors beat the Nuggets 55-to-45 on the boards. Of course, having Kenneth Faried should offset that some but if he can’t come back healthy then rebounding will be an issue that needs to be addressed.
For the Warriors:
- David Lee’s injury is a huge concern. If he’s not able to go that’s a huge blow for the Warriors entire game plan. Let’s hope, for the sake of a good series, that its nothing serious.
- Klay Thompson was fantastic. He was hitting “Steph-Curry-like-shots” all night. If he can shoot well this series then Golden State should at least be in every game.
- The bench was bad. Jarrett Jack and Carl Landry combined to shoot 9-of-26 from the floor. The Warriors will need those numbers to go up, especially with how the Nuggets bench played.