I just wanted to go over a few plays that made an impact on me as I re-watched last night's Warriors vs. Nuggets Game 5. First, I really liked George Karl's starting lineup and hope that he sticks with it for the rest of the series aka Game 6 in Oakland.
I thought Karl did a nice job of limiting Andre Miller's minutes in the first half where he played just 12 minutes, but that Karl leaned on Miller to much in the second half (about 15 minutes). Yes, we're talking about a difference of just three minutes, but a lot can and is happening in three minutes in this series. McGee played just over 12 minutes in the first half and came up with 8 points and 7 rebounds, but in his roughly 9 minutes of the second half he put up just 2 points and 1 rebound.
About the only Nuggets player that put on a show for the duration? Andre Iguodala. He was 5-9 shooting (1-3 from deep and 0-0 on free throws) for 11 points in the first half and 5-8 (2-3 from deep and 2-2 free throws) shooting for 14 points in the second half (25 total points).
Play 1: McGee brings the energy and moves early
Again, we went over at the top how McGee didn't sustain his play from the first half into the second half, but he was a monster to start the game. He is just too quick for Andrew Bogut and moved around him in the paint for the hook shot with ease, but couldn't finish. He did get right back into the play and followed up Kenneth Faried's miss with a put-back dunk that got the crowd right into the game and it was 5-0 Nuggets.
McGee comes up with a rebound on the other end and goes to the post. While, again, he wasn't able to finish this play - he is making Bogut work and he shows a very nice post move. Nerves and adrenaline may have had something to do with McGee's first couple shots, but he settled down as the game got going. He could again be a huge factor in Oakland. The Nuggets have not had a post presence in this series and McGee gave them a bit of that early.
Play 2: Nuggets gamble with Harrison Barnes again ...
The problem Karl has with Golden State playing small is Faried having to cover on the perimeter. You can see Kenneth get lost on defense and just flat-out ignore Barnes here. The rookie has been making the Nuggets pay all series long. He has three games of 19+ points and two games of 23+ points (included).
Karl would rather see Barnes beat him than let Stephen Curry get going. Barnes is shooting a stellar 46% from three point land in this series and shot 35.9% from deep on the season - kid can shoot. The Nuggets had a nice 14-11 lead in the first quarter and the Warriors got 9 of those 11 points off threes (two by Barnes and one by Jarrett Jack).
Play 3: McGee puts the bunny in over Bogut
Dribble penetration is, obviously, key for the Nuggets. But the Denver bigs have not been on the receiving end of too many passes inside that they've been able to put away. Instead of having Ty Lawson or Wilson Chandler having to challenge Bogut inside, this time we see how McGee is able to tower in and Bogut can't even leave the ground - not worth the effort when he can't get up that high.
McGee can take the Nuggets to a whole different level when he is on his game and he'll get shots like this one whenever he wants it. Finally he is able to finish and push Denver to a 7-3 lead early.
Play 4: Faried to Iguodala on a backdoor give-and-go cut
The Warriors were trying to figure out ways to hide Curry on defense all night. It didn't work. Curry wound up with 5 fouls and was taken to task by Andre Iguodala time and again. Here we see Curry nap for just a split second on where Iguodala is going to go and ... bam ... Faried with a perfect bounce pass (how about that!) for a pretty dunk by Iggy.
Play 5: Pick your poison defense
Ever want to toss your remote at the TV when you see Curry wide-open for another three-pointer? Well, watch as Chandler is tasked with deciding who to give this three-point shot to ... (as Faried is again on the opposite side of the court from his man - Barnes). Chandler decides not to leave Curry and to gamble on the rookie. The gamble didn't pay off in the sense of Barnes missing the shot, but it didn't allow Curry the open look he may have needed to get it going on offense.
Play 6: The McGee double-dip
Once again, this is why you play centers that can block shots. McGee just changes the game when the Warriors want to drive the ball. He alters shots with his presence alone, but this time he gets both Barnes and Golden State Stiff Bogut (the two inch miracle vertical!). (Excuse the no box-out on McGee just a bit as Bogut gobbled up an offensive board). Tremendous effort by McGee and just a display of athletic ability that few will ever possess.
Play 7: Koufos gets back into the series
I don't remember who said it in the comments, but an excellent point was made about Koufos having the pressure of starting and going against Bogut relieved with him coming off the bench. Karl has stuck by Koufos when he easily could have abandoned ship on his team's starting center. In a reserve role against the Warriors, Koufos has nobody that can shove him around and we see here that he's able to sky for an easy bunny without worry of Bogut putting a body or block on him. Nice adjustment by Karl. K2 quietly had 6 points and 5 rebounds in Game 5.
Play 8: Bogut gets fooled
Bogut gets caught in no-man's land here. He has the choice of allowing Lawson an easy layup or staying with Faried (who is out of bounds). Bogut chooses to play Lawson as he feels Faried way under the hoop, Lawson sees this decision and makes his own ... to drop off the pass to Faried (who quickly got back into the play) for a crowd pleasing dunk.
This is the type of play that has been missing for large parts of the series. Attack a shot blocker in a variety of ways and keep them guessing. Also, the Warriors have only been able to put one shot blocker into the game at a time with Bogut and Festus Ezeli - this hurts them, but Denver must take advantage like they did here.
Play 9: Lawson gets his
I love it when Lawson gets that selfish side going in transition and just turns on the after burners. The Warriors had three guys on the defensive side of half court before Lawson crosses the line and yet he's able to beat everyone back and get himself a layup. He does this so much, but we don't take the time to realize just how special it is and how special he is as a player. Curry is getting all the pub, but both he and Lawson (same draft class) have been playing their asses off.
Play 10: Manimal does his thing ... twice
I criticized Andre Miller for not throwing an alley-oop in one video breakdown and said it was a sign Denver wasn't playing loose. Here Miller throws perhaps his worst oop of the season, but at least the Nuggets are letting 'em rip. Jack tries to take advantage and blows by Denver's defense. After Miller and Lawson, Jack thinks he has an easy one ... Manimal had other ideas and ran with Jack to time the block.
Faried's momentum took him a few feet out of bounds, but he recovers. Miller slows things up just enough to allow Faried to get back into the play and attack the non-existent center of the Warriors defense ... just a lazy effort by the Warriors, but again they had no shot blocker in there to do anything about protecting the paint.
I actually had to jet for Nuggets practice so I only have first half plays here. The second half saw the Nuggets defense succumb a bit to the pick-and-roll and allow some open looks. A big thing to me was how the Warriors battled for loose balls and fought for rebounds. They got back into the game by getting scrappy and taking advantage of the Nuggets going into jump shot mode (a sign of GS making Denver work for shots) and hitting shots of their own.
I'd love to see a lot of the plays above duplicated in Game 6 and it'll be up to the Nuggets to get it done.
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