In a flash, what seemed like a certain victory for the Warriors turned into panic and — to steal a term from the San Francisco Giants — torture. In the end, the Warriors barely survived against the Nuggets, hanging on for a 92-88 victory and advanced to the second round of the postseason.
Golden State led by as many as 18 points in the fourth quarter, only to see the Nuggets rally thanks to a flurry of turnovers by the Warriors. The inexperience of the Warriors really showed, with miscues happening left and right.
Whether it was stepping out of bounds, not securing a rebound or having an inbounds pass stolen, the Warriors did nothing right in their attempt to close out the game.
Their large lead was dwindled down to three at 90-87 when Andre Iguodala drilled a 3-pointer with a minute remaining. After a Harrison Barnes’ missed three, Kenneth Faried was fouled at the other end and made one of two shots.
Then, Iguodala stole a bad pass from Klay Thompson, but the Nuggets failed to score on their one and only opportunity to tie or take the lead. Jarrett Jack’s clutch free throws sealed the deal, and the Warriors escaped with a four-point victory.
Oracle Arena was rocking as memories of the 2007 upset of the Dallas Mavericks came back to mind. The song “Celebration” played in the background at the final buzzer, and celebrate they did.
The night started with a surprise, as an injured David Lee warmed up with the team and played briefly in the first quarter, missing his only shot attempt. Lee was supposed to be out for the playoffs with a torn hip flexor suffered in Game 1, but was medically cleared on Thursday.
Stephen Curry led the way for the Warriors with 22 points and eight assists. Andrew Bogut’s presence was surely felt, as he grabbed 21 huge rebounds and chipped in 14 as well. He was really the only big man for the Warriors who could match up with the Nuggets’ trees, and he stood up to the task.
The Warriors jumped out of the gate slow, as the Nuggets dominated the glass. The likes of Kenneth Faried and Javale McGee pulled down offensive rebound after offensive rebound, and Denver claimed a double-digit lead midway through the second quarter. Meanwhile, Curry and Thompson started off a combined 1/10 from the field.
However, Golden State did finish on a 17-8 run that gave them some momentum into halftime, and despite the poor play, was only down 42-40 at the break.
After a less-than-stellar first half, the Warriors responded with a monster third quarter, outscoring Denver by 13 points.
With the game tied at 44-44, Curry nailed three 3-pointers in less than two minutes, helping the Warriors extend their lead to double-digits heading in to the fourth.
A 7-0 run to being the fourth quarter was quickly negated by Denver, who responded with a 13-0 run to cut the lead to five and get themselves right back in the game.
If I could sum up this series in a few words, it would be this: the Warriors were not a better team than the Nuggets, nor were they supposed to pull off the upset. However, in terms of pure passion, grit, and determination, they were by far the best team on the court.
It took six hard fought games, and a torturous final 12 minutes, but ultimately, the Golden State Warriors pulled it off and are one step closer to their ultimate goal.