Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The Warriors Overcome History, At Least For One Night

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In the third quarter of tonight's Game 2 in Denver, Golden State led by a dozen, and were simply playing beautiful basketball. This wasn't a Road Steal Kind of Effort; they were simply hitting on all cylinders. Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson were raining down jumpers to the point of contagion. It started to become more rare when a shot actually touched the rim, rather than when it just passed through the cotton with a whisper. The Denver transition game was unable to get in gear despite some Warrior turnovers, and their crowd, which had watched 24 straight wins, knew they were in real trouble. Denver had fallen in love with early threes, which, when you shoot like the Nuggets do from the arc, is just fools' gold. Golden State just never seemed to go more than a trip or two down the court without draining a shot, regardless of the level of defense, and while some wondered how a team could possibly stay this hot all night, and that Denver would make a run as soon as the legs started to go... well, the jumpers just kept falling.

And then The Moment happened, the one that defeatist Warrior fans were always waiting for, the same way they felt when David Lee went down for the season in Game One. Curry turned an ankle, and limped off.

(A small note to the people who aren't intimately familiar with Curry's history: if it weren't for his ankles, you would be intimately familiar with Curry's history. He's simply the purest shooter of his generation, an absolute joy to watch, and a second-generation NBA star. He plies his trade for a franchise that doesn't get on national television often enough, and plays on the wrong coast; had he gotten drafted by New York and stayed healthy, he'd be a top five guy in worldwide jersey sales. Moving on.)

Anyway... the Warriors somehow stretched the lead as their best player went to the sidelines, with Carl Landry doing his usual quietly useful things in relief of Lee. Curry got back on the floor without fanfare, but seemed out of sorts for a few trips up and down the court, and Denver quickly made a run to cut the lead in a minute, because that's just the pace that this game was being played at. And after a minute of this, and me starting to wonder if the historical tragedy that is the Warriors was going to cheat us out of a long series... Curry drained a 25-footer, yet another shot that was all thread, and Denver Fan had to know this wasn't going to start being their night after all. While the game never really got out of hand, Denver was never able to get the lead down to a few possessions, and your final score was Warriors 131, Nuggets 117.

Four Warriors scored over 20, with Curry leading the way. Jarrett Jack did some good things, Harrison Barnes made some filthy drives to the hole, and they got some nice hustle plays and boards from Andrew Bogut and Festus Ezeli. (Really like the latter's game; he's raw as it gets, but a natural shot-blocker.) The Nugs were unable to get another hero game out of Andre Miller, and Kenneth Faried clearly wasn't himself yet, coming off his injury. And yet... Denver still just kept hanging around. Golden State was shooting 63% from the floor in a road game, was taking care of the ball and limiting the fast break, and still couldn't keep any separation. It was utterly captivating, and simply what basketball should always be, at least in the modern era with this kind of shooting. I knew I couldn't get enough of this series before it started, and that's exactly what's happening now.

Keep in mind, the Nuggets really didn't play badly tonight. They shot over 50%, made threes, kept coming all night and really didn't play terrible defense, despite the huge number of points involved. This was also their first home loss in 25 games; cutting them some slack seems in order, and this series looks like it's going very, very deep, if for no other reason than they won't be able to make up for Lee's absence in the long run. Neither of these teams is winning Round 2; hell, they're probably going to make certain of that by having this gone by the full seven with overtimes. And for that, we should all be very, very grateful... especially if Curry can stay on the court, and if the Warriors can remain this resilient.

Game Three is Friday, in front of the best crowd in pro hoop. Don't miss it.

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