Warriors aficionado David Barnes recounts his Game 3 experience of the Denver-Golden State series from Oracle Arena in Oakland.
There is nothing quite like playoff basketball and certainly nothing like playoff basketball at the Oracle. You might argue decibel levels and whether last night’s volume level reached that of the “We Believe” games but last night’s crowd was fully invested in what turned out to be every bit worth waiting for. The national anthem (yes I’m writing about the national anthem) was sung by 8-year old Nayah Damasen and was transcendent I encourage you to click on the link and listen because the noise level and energy that followed her singing bled into the introduction of the Denver starters and then the “lights out” introduction of the GSW starting lineup and from that point on hearing anything became a problem.
The first quarter was reminiscent of parts of games 1 and 2. Fairly even and not very pretty but it was obvious that Denver had brought their A-game and that, combined with the constant crowd noise, created problems for Warriors guards, who continually dribbled into traps. The Nugget’s athleticism and length is a wonder to behold when they are bringing maximum energy and they were ready to play last night. When you factor that with Ty Lawson’s dribble penetration and 14 first-half turnovers (which resulted in 20 Denver points), it was miraculous that the Golden State was only down 12.
Steph Curry kept the Warriors in the game and team rebounding and Bogut’s help defense in the paint, helped the Warriors gain a rebounding edge and toughness advantage. There was work to be done in the second half and the crowd was ready…
What turned a 12-point deficit into a fourth quarter lead? The crowd certainly helped. In addition, the Warriors got focused and aggressive defending, a low-post game from Carl Landry, who also collected four offensive rebounds, and contributions from everyone on the roster down to Kent Bazemore (and oh how the fans love Bazemore).
Harrison Barnes’ 3 of 5 shooting from long-range has been crucial. Barnes 24-point game 2 and 19-point game 3 have provided an already excellent offense with even more balance and athleticism. Jarrett Jack’s 23 points on only 14 field-goal attempts, 7 assists and 5 rebounds, created havoc for Golden State. On the other hand, his 7 turnovers are the result of this up-tempo style.
We finally saw what we’d been waiting to see: two talented and athletic teams going at it hard and in a surreal environment. You couldn’t hear whistles so every foul call was a bit of a surprise so I’m looking forward to watching the tape, but last night was everything you want in a basketball game and any conversation (if there is anything left in this) about the Ellis/Bogut trade should be put to rest.
Bogut’s presence is something that goes beyond anything on the stat sheet. When he got called for a technical on an altercation with Javale McGee and pointed to his chin as if to say “Go ahead and take a shot,” he truly became a Warrior. His energy level was high, he looked pretty nimble on the floor and he does things that nobody has ever done in that uniform, with defensive instincts and his ability to unify the defense.
The last quarter was chaotic, celebratory, angst-inducing and ultimately triumphant and when Iguodola’s desperation three went off the rim and the final buzzer sounded the place went truly mad. The confetti cannons, close to 20,000 people screaming “Warriors!” and nobody in any hurry to leave the Arena.
Golden State accomplished it’s goal in the first two games: steal home court. Golden State got closer to advancing by edging out the Nuggets in Game 3. The Warriors now must show the same mental toughness and continue to play free and easy, without any fear of the moment, to take two of the next four games and advance to the second round. The Oracle will be rocking on Sunday night, with the Warriors looking to step that much closer to another playoff upset.