For the majority of the game, the Golden State Warriors looked like a mortal NBA team struggling to keep pace with a young, upstart Denver squad. Minus star forward Draymond Green, who was out for rest, the Warriors spent most of the night playing from behind and needed a furious rally in the game’s final minute for a chance at a victory. Down seven points with a minute left in the game, Golden State got clutch three-point makes from Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson to earn two opportunities to escape Denver with a win. However, the Dubs were done in by an untimely turnover and a shot attempt that missed short, handing the team its third lost of the season.
1) I thought Curry was going to win the game for the Warriors. 13 seconds left, ball in the best player’s hand, big man trying to guard him. We’ve seen this play out before, and it usually doesn’t end well for the big guy. Steph had just torched the Nuggets defense for 20 points in a span of 5 minutes and 24 seconds on a series of increasingly difficult shots. There was no way he wasn’t going to drill a three in Danilo Gallinari’s grill at the buzzer for the win and further validate his best-player-on-the-planet status … but he didn’t. Somehow Steph mishandled the ball on a dribble and Gallo made a quick dive to gain possession. After all the Curry theatrics, the Warriors came up just short of a completing the thrilling comeback.
2) He had just hit a ridiculous three to cut the lead to one, so it was fine that Klay got the final shot over Curry, who was in video game mode. I was just hoping Klay would get a better look than a turnaround three with Mudiay draped all over him, especially since the team is usually so creative and efficient coming out of the timeout.
3) With a record of 36-3, the Warriors are only 2.5 games ahead of the Spurs. The one seed in this year’s playoffs is especially important not because the first-place team gets home court advantage in the West (though that’s advantageous), but because they get to avoid OKC in Round Two.
4) Esoteric state of the night: after not registering a negative in plus-minus all season, Curry now has two consecutive.
5) Draymond Green has gotten a lot of attention for his barrage of triple-doubles (and rightly so), but let’s not forget what the runner-up for DPOY last season brings to the defensive side of the court. Kenneth Faried and Darrel Arthur combined for 23 points and 15 rebounds at the power forward spot.
6) Harrison Barnes is looking better each game. His shot is still missing (7-17), but he was aggressive when the offense ran through him in the second quarter with the bench unit, and his 18 points (2 threes, a dunk, and a bunch of turnaround jumpers off isos) helped keep the deficit manageable when the Warriors and Curry were struggling to score early.
7) Gary Harris is nice. He moves well off the ball, gets buckets in transition, hits a respectable 37% from deep, and his long-armed defense helped force Curry into 8 turnovers. At 21 years old, he’s the exact kind of 3-and-D wing all teams covet these days. Good on Denver for getting him from Chicago, who plucked him with the 19th pick in the draft.
8) I didn’t mind the move to insert Jason Thompson into the starting lineup. The double-big units haven’t been the most productive, but Walton and Kerr, both subs the majority of their careers, know how important it is for team chemistry for guys on the end of the bench to feel vested in the group’s success. JT didn’t play particularly well in his 14 minutes, but nether did Brandon Rush when he was first asked to start in HB’s place. This seemed like a play with the long-run in mind.
9) If you’re sad the Warriors lose once every thirteen times out, go and watch Steph Curry “ruin” the game of basketball to cheer yourself up.
10) It’s looking iffy for Kobe to play tonight in a final curtain call at Oracle. Wouldn’t it be just like Kobe — after all those years of torching Warriors fans — to not give the locals the satisfaction of one more Laker beat down.