Stephen Curry gutted through ankle pain in the Warrior win (Getty Images)
Another preposterously entertaining game in a gem of a series, as the Golden State Warriors rose to the fevered level of their home crowd and overcame an inspired performance from Denver Nuggets point guard Ty Lawson to retain home court advantage and pull to a 2-1 series lead. Stephen Curry was brilliant at times and outrageous in other spots with his quick release from the outside and derring-do in the interior, piling up 29 points and 11 assists in Golden State’s first home playoff game in six years.
The Warriors needed to pounce, because in spite of Lawson’s effort, the Nuggets made just enough mistakes to give Golden State its winnin’ window.
Andre Miller, Denver’s Game 1 hero, seemed out of sorts in this loss. Not only did he surprisingly turn down a few lob chances in transition and the half-court, but Miller missed 11 of 13 shots and coughed up three turnovers in 27 minutes. Miller is a veteran who was playing significant postseason ball in the NCAAs all the way back in the Clinton Administration, but it almost looked like the Golden State crowd had him a bit rattled. Andre Iguodala missed five of seven free throws, the guy is just heaving shots as quickly as he can while at the line these days, and Denver coach George Karl’s gamble with a turnover-causing lineup to start the fourth quarter backfired for the Nuggets.
Even the team’s hero, Lawson (who finished with 35 points and 10 assists), made a crucial late-game turnover that gave Golden State just enough room to hold on.
Going small yet again with Curry and Jarrett Jack in the backcourt and Harrison Barnes at “power” forward, the Warriors switched everything defensively and again relied on Andrew Bogut’s moving feet to mind the middle and active team rebounding from all involved to dominate Denver on the glass. Curry was the go-to star, but Jack was key — 23 points on only 14 shots for the one-time reserve, turning it over seven times but also dishing seven assists and saving several broken plays for the Warriors.
More important than the highlights or game-clinchers you’ll watch below was the work of Bogut, who glided effortlessly (I didn’t say “painlessly”) with any Nugget driver as he contested shots and took up enough space for guards to slide in for the defensive rebound. Bogut is still not 100 percent, but that doesn’t mean he can’t be the difference-maker in a playoff series. Even if it is his first in seven seasons.
Denver was right there, though, just as Golden State was in Game 1. We’re 144 minutes into this series, and precious little has yet to be decided. All we can ask is for at least 192 more minutes to figure things out.
Expecting the Boston Celtics to perform in the same fashion as the Chicago Bulls have during this postseason is a bit unfair. This is almost borderline shocking to write, but the Bulls have been able to rely on the consistent mistake-free offense of Carlos Boozer against the Brooklyn Nets, as they’ve earned a 2-1 series lead, and Chicago has done well to barely eke out two wins over the Nets that probably could have gone either way. Chicago isn’t two wins better than Boston, as both teams work without their star point guards, because the difference between the Nets and the New York Knicks is most certainly the difference in the two teams’ postseason rankings.
New York just has too many game-changers offensively. Not in relation to the rest of the league, as things will get tougher as the postseason moves along, but in relation to a Celtics team that is averaging just 75 points per game in the playoffs. Each time the New York offense bogged down on Friday, the Knicks could rely on a superior one-on-one move from Carmelo Anthony or J.R. Smith to save the possession, while taking advantage of Boston’s miserable offense on the other end. All the worst hallmarks of Boston’s offense from even the title-contending years — sloppy turnovers, lack of free throws, 3-pointers as the first option — were on display in full force in Game 3, adding to the misery.
It’s unfortunate, because Celtics coach Doc Rivers actually drew up some fantastic plays out of timeouts. The problem is that Paul Pierce is aiming his shots now, the Knicks are able to get away with Mike Woodson’s “SWITCH EVERYTHING, BRO”-defense against Boston, and the Celtic bench (4-for-12 shooting) was non-existent. Even on a night when the C’s had a surprising amount of offensive rebounds (11), Boston just couldn’t hack it on that end.
The Celtics have a win in them. Even if things go perfectly for this team in Game 4, though, they could still be a few late-game Anthony isos away from a first-round sweep.
Lou Adler and Jim Goldstein (Getty Images)
This series is barely worth commenting on. The Lakers have absolutely no backcourt scoring nor team defense to rely on, and the team’s two best players (Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol) have showcased poor chemistry for most of the season save for the odd lob. San Antonio came out aggressively in the first quarter to throw off the scent, but by the second half, the Spurs were just toying with these Lakers.
Both Laker bigs (Howard managed 25 points and 11 rebounds with two fearsome blocks; Gasol netted a triple-double) played fantastic individually on Friday night, but Metta World Peace is obviously still encumbered by late-season knee surgery, and the Laker bench was terrible even before it had to be emptied to make up for the losses of Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, and Steve Blake.
Tim Duncan managed 26 points and nine rebounds in just 31 minutes, and the awful Laker defense made a star out of DeJuan Blair (13 points on 6 for 6 “shooting,” seven rebounds, three assists in 14 minutes). San Antonio won this game by 31 points, and yet it still feels as if the Spurs were taking it easy on their diminished opponent.
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