Both clubs scored fewer than 100 points, Stephen Curry missed his first nine shots from the field and the fast-breaking Nuggets had only limited luck in transition. Oh, and the 37-year-old Andre Miller was unquestionably the deciding factor as his 28 points (and game-winning layup) were instrumental in Denver's 97-95 win.
Had even a few things gone right for the Warriors, they could easily have walked away with Game 1. But because Denver seized its opportunity down the stretch, the Dubs will be fighting to avoid leaving the Mile High City in an 0-2 hole.
Time: Tuesday, April 23, 10:30 p.m. ET
Where: Pepsi Center, Denver, CA
Series Record: 1-0 Nuggets
Key Storyline: How Much Will David Lee's Absence Matter?
When David Lee hit the floor on a drive in the early stages of the fourth quarter on Saturday, he immediately reached for his right hip. His face featured the perplexed, somewhat incredulous look players get when they realize something has just gone very, very wrong with their bodies.
Lee had been playing terribly before the injury, suffering from cramps in his quadriceps and showing an offensive reluctance that marked him as a player without any prior playoff experience. Based on his Game 1 performance, it's tempting to argue that the Warriors won't necessarily miss Lee during the rest of the series.
After all, he's a notoriously poor defender and his lack of physicality had been particularly exposed during Golden State's three losses to the Nuggets during the regular season.
But Lee is also the Dubs' lone All-Star and their most skilled scorer in the paint. Without him, the Warriors will become even more reliant on jump shots, which seems almost impossible.
Carl Landry will serve as the Warriors' power forward now, and he should compensate for Lee's absence adequately in a couple of areas. For starters, Landry can score in the post nearly as well as Lee. He's undersized, but stronger and more willing to create contact than his injured teammate.
Defensively, it's impossible to be worse than Lee. So Landry brings a distinct advantage there.
But Golden State's offense depends on Lee to facilitate from the elbows. His passing skill (Lee averaged 3.5 assists per game during the regular season, second-most among power forwards) and respectable mid-range jumper figured to make him something of an offensive hub as the series progressed.
Landry can't provide anything close to Lee's court vision or creativity in that area.
Overall, Lee's injury is a big one for Golden State. But the Warriors won't get any sympathy from the Nuggets, who are dealing with damaged goods in Kenneth Faried and Ty Lawson and have been playing without Danilo Gallinari since the forward tore his ACL earlier this month.
Injury Report (via CBSSports.com)
Warriors: David Lee, Hip, Out for Season
Nuggets: Kenneth Faried, Ankle, Probable for Game 2; Danilo Gallinari, Knee, Out for Season
Projected Starting Lineups
Warriors: Stephen Curry (PG), Klay Thompson (SG), Harrison Barnes (SF), Carl Landry (PF), Andrew Bogut (C)
Nuggets: Ty Lawson (PG), Evan Fournier (SG), Andre Iguodala (SF), Kenneth Faried (PF), Kosta Koufos (C)
The Warriors Will Win If...
Stephen Curry loosens up.
The Warriors can only hope to advance if their best player can rediscover the confident, aggressive style that made him the Western Conference's Player of the Month in April.
Curry looked hesitant in the first half of Game 1, missing his first nine shots and generally failing to take control of the game in the way his team needed him to. Denver applied relentless pressure, forcing the ball out of Curry's hands whenever possible.
After just a few possessions in the first quarter, Curry was visibly frustrated and seemed uncharacteristically content to stand still on the perimeter after getting rid of the ball.
Fatigue could have been a factor, but because he started to find his way in the second half, it's most likely that the league's best three-point shooter was only suffering from a case of postseason nerves in the early going.
Klay Thompson didn't have any such problem, and his 22 points should cause the Nuggets to pay a bit more attention to him in Game 2. If that happens, Curry might have a slightly easier time finding the slivers of daylight he needs to get his shot off.
With Lee on the bench and Harrison Barnes prone to disappearing for quarters at a time, Golden State needs Curry to look for his own offense from the moment he crosses halfcourt.
He doesn't need the 54 points he put up against the New York Knicks earlier this year, but Curry will probably have to pump in at least 30 for the Warriors to have a chance.
*Note: The Warriors could also win if Andre Miller doesn't play the game of his life for the second contest in a row. Of course, if Barnes ends up covering him again, another monstrous "old-man" game is entirely possible.
The Nuggets Will Win If...
They do what they do best.
Denver led the NBA during the regular season with averages of 58 points in the paint, 15.8 second-chance points and 20.1 fast-break points per game.
Even without Danilo Gallinari, the Nuggets have the horses to wear out the Warriors on the break and in the lane. And if Faried is healthy enough to see any playing time in Game 2, Denver will have yet another thoroughbred ready to charge up and down the floor.
Game 1 saw the Nuggets post numbers well below all of the averages listed above, so a minor uptick in any of them should go a long way toward beating a Warriors team that'll be without its best frontcourt scorer.
If Denver dominates the glass and does a better job of getting out on the break in Game 2, Golden State isn't going to have the bodies up front to keep pace.
*Note: Or Andre Miller could go to work on Barnes and the rest of the Warriors again.
Golden State is up against the wall now, and it has to know that after letting a winnable Game 1 get away, its best effort will be necessary to avoid an 0-2 hole. Desperate teams often find an extra gear, and the Warriors are very much a desperate team at this point.
Expect Curry to bounce back and Landry to do a solid job as Lee's replacement.
If Barnes remembers to show up and Golden State gets another pair of solid performances from Thompson and Andrew Bogut, it should be able to eke out a tough road win.
Prediction: Warriors 109, Nuggets 105
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