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Published September 17, 2015
David Lee went from Golden State's All-Star power forward and double-double machine to the Warriors' biggest cheerleader and strategic adviser during timeouts.
Mostly, though, he just sat back and enjoyed the show Tuesday night when the Warriors stunned the Denver Nuggets 131-117 to even their playoff series at a game each.
The Warriors hardly missed much of anything. Not many of their shots, and not even their injured All-Star, who is out for the rest of the playoffs with a torn right hip flexor.
Behind Stephen Curry's 30 points and 13 assists, the Warriors became the first opponent to walk off the Pepsi Center court a winner since the Washington Wizards on Jan. 18.
The Warriors also got 26 points from surprise starter Jarrett Jack, a career-high 24 from rookie Harrison Barnes in his debut at power forward and 21 from Klay Thompson.
Most importantly, the sixth-seeded Warriors, who became the second road team to win in the postseason following Chicago's victory at Brooklyn on Monday, wrested home-court advantage from the NBA's best home team.
"They were knocking down shots," Denver's Andre Iguodala said.
That's an understatement. They were knocking them down better than they ever had before in a playoff game, a franchise playoff-record 64.6 percent from the field (51 of 79).
Every one of the nine Warriors who took at least a shot made better than half of them.
"Man, they were knocking it down," Ty Lawson marveled.
"We are a very good shooting basketball team," Warriors coach Mark Jackson said. "We've got guys that can knock down shots. You talk about Klay Thompson and Steph Curry, in my opinion, they're the greatest shooting backcourt in the history of the game."
The third-seeded Nuggets were an NBA-best 38-3 at home during the regular season but needed Andre Miller's last-second shot to beat Golden State by a basket in the opener and extend their franchise-best winning streak to 24 games.
With Golden State losing Lee to a torn hip flexor and the Nuggets getting top rebounder and energizer Kenneth Faried back from a sprained ankle, this one looked like a mismatch, even Curry acknowledged.
And it was, only not the way the Pepsi Center crowd anticipated.
"We're a resilient team, said that all year. When guys go down, other guys step up," said Curry, who played through a tender left ankle after turning it late in the third quarter. "We showed that tonight. Big road win for us. We've got to go home and protect our homecourt."
Even without their All-Star, the Warriors outrebounded the Nuggets 36-26.
"We didn't do much of anything very well," Nuggets coach George Karl lamented. "I don't think I ever coached a game when a team got three 35-point quarters, maybe in my career. Ever."
The best anybody shot against Denver during the season was 54 percent, by the Los Angeles Lakers way back on Nov. 20, and the most points the Nuggets had allowed was 126 at San Antonio on Nov. 17.
Curry scored just one bucket, a 3-pointer, after turning his ankle but said he doesn't expect it to be an issue Friday night when the series shifts back to Oakland for Game 3.
Lawson and Corey Brewer each scored 19 points for Denver and Iguodala and Miller both had 18, but the Nuggets were playing catch-up from the middle of the second quarter and couldn't keep up with so many of the Warriors' shots falling, negating Denver's league-best transition game.
Lee led the league in double-doubles with 56 and had another before getting hurt in the fourth quarter of the series opener on Saturday. The Warriors were 3-18 without him over the last three seasons, but Jackson mixed and matched his lineup to make up for his All-Star's absence on this night, when Lee gave advice to his teammates during timeouts.
The Nuggets were hoping the return of Faried would help them reverse their 10-point disadvantage on the boards in Game 1. But he was rusty and the same problems that plagued Denver in the opener — missing too many open shots, getting outmuscled on the glass and giving up open 3s — haunted them once again and even more so.
Curry scored 15 points in the second quarter and hit four jumpers during a 14-5 run the Warriors used to grab control and take the air out of the Pepsi Center as they cruised into halftime with a 61-53 lead that would never be threatened in the second half.
Curry swished another sweet jumper to start the third quarter and the Warriors opened up a 17-point lead they would stretch to 20 in the fourth quarter.
"The game plan tonight was to keep the ball out of Stephen Curry's hands, but he came off (the pick-and-rolls) and had open looks and then he started finding people," Lawson said. "After that, we started scrambling and we can't play like that."
Asked if he thought the Nuggets were overconfident with Faried back and Lee down, Jack said: "They're confident for a good reason. They're a great team, especially playing in this building where they've only lost three games. I would be confident too. I don't think that's a shot at us, but they're back at full strength.
"If we were at full strength we'd be confident, as well. This by no means is a celebratory situation for us. We still have to come in and take care of business Friday."
Notes: Faried finished with four points and two rebounds in 21 minutes. ... Curry's 30-10 playoff game was the first for the franchise since Sleepy Floyd on May 10, 1987. He's the third NBA player since 2000 (Dwyane Wade and Chris Paul — twice) to post 30 points, 13 assists and five rebounds in a playoff game. ... Carl Landry was introduced as a starter but Jack was summoned just before tip-off instead. ... Lawson had a career playoff-best 12 assists. ... With 14 points off the bench, Nuggets F Anthony Randolph had a career playoff-high 14 points. ... The last time the Nuggets surrendered 20-plus points to four players in a playoff game was on May 17, 1985, to the Lakers (James Worthy 28, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar 27, Byron Scott 21, Michael Cooper 20).
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