The loss of All-Star power forward David Lee in Game 1 of the Golden State Warriors' opening-round series against the Denver Nuggets presented head coach Mark Jackson with a problem. Forced to play without a very productive power forward and faced with little interior depth, Jackson opted to start rookie wing Harrison Barnes at the "four" position in a small-ball lineup. It was a risk, but a fairly necessary one to take.
It's safe to say that the move was successful. In 34 minutes, Barnes scored 24 points on 9-of-14 shooting in one of his best performances of the season. The obvious highlight was this dunk, an emphatic reverse jam on lengthy forward Anthony Randolph.
Yet Barnes's excellent performance was only one aspect of a historically great offensive game from the Warriors in a 131-117 win to even the series at 1-1. They shot 64.6 percent from the field as a team, the best single-game postseason mark since the Utah Jazz hit 65.1 percent against the Phoenix Suns in their opening game of the 1991 playoffs.
Stephen Curry led the charge with 30 points on 13-of-23 shooting (plus 13 assists), but that actually gave him the second-worst individual shooting percentage of anyone on the Warriors' roster behind Draymond Green, who still shot 1-of-2 from the floor. Golden State also hit 14-of-25 from beyond the arc, a vast improvement on their 8-of-22 mark in Game 1.
Virtually every player on the roster provided a spark at the offensive end. Point guard Jarrett Jack, Lee's replacement in the starting lineup, went for 26 points on 10-of-15 shooting and added seven assists. Klay Thompson chipped in 21 points on 8-of-11 shooting, including 5-of-6 from 3-point range. Even offense-averse role players like Festus Ezeli got in on the action, catching passes off the pick-and-roll and dribble-penetration for easy dunks. The team shot chart for this game is patently absurd:
That's an awful lot of green zones for the Warriors (via NBA.com).
There's little use in wondering if the Warriors can recreate this offensive onslaught when the series shifts to Oakland, because it's likely this game will go down as the best shooting night by any team in the 2013 postseason. Instead, the question is how much the Nuggets can adjust to the Warriors' new lineup. Although extremely active power forward Kenneth Faried returned to the Nuggets' rotation for this game, the Warriors regularly exploited his condition both in the half-court and in transition. For that matter, the Nuggets struggled to get back in transition as a general rule, something that simply can't happen again if they hope to take a game at Oracle Arena.
The NBA's postseason structure requires teams to adjust to their opponents' shifts in strategy on the fly, and we shouldn't expect a single shift in one game to carry over completely to the rest of the series. However, the loss of Lee had the potential to doom the Warriors' hopes of moving on to the next round. For at least one game, they turned that bad fortune into an advantage.
Stay tuned for Friday night's Game 3, because chances are this wildly entertaining series has more swings in store.
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