Forcing overtime in the Warriors’ first playoff game relied on rookie Draymond Green and Andrew Bogut--who were on the floor together for a grand total of 17 minutes in 11 games this season--wordlessly communicating on defense to stop Nuggets point guard Andre Miller.
They did not.
When Miller drove hard left, Green, not expecting help from Bogut, set himself up to try and block Miller’s shot. That gave Miller the opening to shimmy right and finish a layup with the rim between he and Bogut, who did indeed slide over to help.
With more time together, Green and Bogut no doubt would instinctively know how to defend both such a play and such a player as Miller. Green would’ve shuttled Miller toward Bogut knowing he’d be there. But they haven’t had that time and lack of familiarity looms large in the playoffs.
Why was Green in there at all you ask? Because Jarrett Jack was unable to slow down Miller, who had 28 points in 27 minutes, and Green has been Jackson’s go-to stopper at the end of games for most of this season. It simply hasn’t been very often with Bogut as center.
Jack’s inability to slow down Miller creates a major problem going forward. Jack has won most matchups off the bench throughout the season because he’s a difficult matchup. A player strong enough to handle him is rarely fast enough; quicker but smaller players he simply shoots over or bumps to create space. Miller is as close to a carbon copy of Jack as there is in the league. If Jack can’t punish him from the three-point line – Miller’s Achilles heel – he’ll have a hard time winning this matchup.
All that said, if everything remained equal going into Game 2, the Warriors would have to feel good about their chances at going home with the series tied at one win a piece. Instead, the Nuggets are expected to have starting power forward Kenneth (The Manimal) Faried back and the Warriors could be without their starting power forward – and lone All-Star – David Lee, who sustained a strained right hip flexor.
Lee’s absence could add to another issue the Warriors must address for Game 2: shaking free Steph Curry.
The Warriors’ leading scorer finished with 19 points on 7 of 20 shooting, but he had to be more clever and resourceful than usual even to do that.
The Nuggets trapped him with impunity or used longer, bigger defenders on him, closing the air space needed to get off shots. The counter is for him to get the ball to one of the Warriors’ passing big men and cut for a return pass, but if Lee can’t go – and seeing him shuffle off the bus after the game was not exactly encouraging – that reduces the number of first-rate passing big men the Warriors have to one, Bogut.
“If David is out, I’ll have to be more aggressive offensively than I’ve been all season,” Bogut said.