The good news for the Warriors is that they acquitted themselves quite nicely in their first playoff series since 2007. The bad news is that the good news wasn’t good enough for the Warriors to get a win.
The Warriors dropped Game 1 to the Nuggets on Saturday 97-95, and it was a game that non-favored teams need to win if they expect to knock off a higher-seeded and better team.
But considering the Warriors had six players making their postseason debuts, it certainly wasn’t a bad effort. The Warriors certainly didn’t play a great game, but they didn’t play a bad game, either. Their defense held up well throughout the game, and though their offense sputtered at times, they were resilient enough to be in contact with Denver all game.
What bit the Warriors on Saturday was that two of their three best players had subpar games and they committed a costly turnover at absolutely the wrong moment.
David Lee had 10 points and 14 rebounds when he went out with a hip injury, but he was not playing well before that. He had missed 10 of 14 shots and committed four turnovers in his 29 minutes. Stephen Curry missed his first nine shots on his way to a 7-of-20 shooting night. He finished with nine assists and five turnovers, but he had only one assist and four of those turnovers in the second half, including a killer with 38 seconds remaining and the Warriors down one. That turnover – a steal and fastbreak conversion by Ty Lawson – put the Nuggets up three.
That turnover was the kind of turnover you can’t afford in the postseason if you want to do damage. And yet, those are the kinds of turnovers that happen when most of your team is making its playoff debuts.
The Warriors are going to have to endure some growing pains during this series, no doubt. But the best-case scenario is to endure those growing pains … and somehow take a win home, too.
That didn’t happen, and yet they had a chance. The Warriors weren’t efficient enough offensively to put distance between themselves and the Nuggets in the first half. That meant Denver needed to come a shorter way when it eventually made its run.
One of the Warriors’ issues this season has been turnovers. They have committed too many of them, and worse, they sometimes come at awful times – like Saturday, and it led to an uncontested layup at the other end.
For the most part, miscues haven’t hurt Golden State, and the team’s phenomenal 3-point shooting has covered mistakes up other times.
But the 3-point line treated the Warriors just so-so on Saturday. They went 8-for-22 (36.4) percent, and truth be told, they were just a little more contested than usual.
With Lee out, it makes the Warriors’ job even more difficult because it allows Denver to focus further on defending the perimeter.
Also looming is the return of Kenneth Faried, who is only going to make things a little more troublesome on the interior for Golden State in Game 2.
The biggest bright spot for the Warriors – along with Klay Thompson’s shooting – was Andrew Bogut’s presence. Bogut did a tremendous job of clogging the lane and interjecting himself during plays near the basket. Maybe not on Andre Miller’s game-winning drive, but most of the other times.
With Bogut patrolling the lane (four blocks) Denver was forced to take more perimeter jumpers than it likes, and that’s not a great strength. Especially without Danilo Gallinari. The fewer inside buckets and fastbreak buckets for the Nuggets, the better the Warriors chances because then it turns into a shooting contest. And that’s one advantage the Warriors certainly have.
Game 1 was pretty good for the Warriors, but just not good enough. Not good enough for the playoffs, anyway. They’re going to need to tighten things up in a few more areas to win a playoff road game.
And if they don’t, they’re going to come back to Oracle down 0-2.