When a game unfolds the way it did last night (April 20th) at the Pepsi Center between the Golden State Warriors and Denver Nuggets you think to yourself, "What did I just witness?!?" Well, let's review a few key plays from the last five minutes of the fourth quarter.
(In doing something like this you put a premium on the end of the game -- there were tons of big plays throughout the game, but for these purposes we're focusing on the last five minutes.)
The play: 5:13 mark, Nuggets up 86-81
What happened: Stephen Curry drives the ball down the left hand side of the lane -- really into the teeth of the Nuggets defense as he heads towards Andre Iguodala and Wilson Chandler. Curry dishes the ball, under duress, to Carl Landry in the post, Landry quickly passes it to Klay Thompson in the corner, and Thompson fires up a tough angled three.
The ball bounces off the side of the backboard to Iggy - he races up the court and is met with little resistance, so he goes all the way to the rim for a layup. Coming back up the court, Jarrett Jack gets his pocket picked by Andre Miller -- if you know Miller, he has excelled at this play throughout his career -- Jack is called for a foul (hits Miller in the face) and Miller goes 1-2 at the free throw line.
Outcome: Denver takes an 89-81 lead.
What could have gone down: If Thompson hits that three it's 86-84 and we have a much tighter game with a lot of time left on the clock. Instead the Nuggets wound up with an eight point lead and were, seemingly, in control of the game.
The play: 4:14 mark, Nuggets up 89-81
What happened: Curry drives by Chandler (who switched onto Curry after a pick by Draymond Green) and takes a tear-drop over Kosta Koufos. Curry misses the shot, but Andrew Bogut has nobody rotate to him, so he gets an easy offensive rebound. After Curry got by Chandler, Wilson stopped on the play instead of running at Bogut, Lawson also was not in position to cover Bogut -- just one of those plays.
Bogut clears the ball to Jarrett Jack, who launches a three-pointer, and misses. Bogut, who was running the baseline, follows the miss out near the sideline and beats Lawson to the ball, paws it to Thompson, and Klay is open for a three that he nails.
And Thompson was open as Iggy ran to the foul line to cover that area for the long rebound off the Jack miss. Just a nice hustle play by Bogut and excellent shooting by Klay.
Outcome: Warriors cut the lead to 89-84.
What could have gone down: It was the right play for Chandler to chase Curry off the three-point line, but instead of stopping when Curry got by him - he should have gone towards the rim. If he had, maybe he gets the board, maybe not. Iguodala couldn't leave Thompson to run after the board - what if Curry saw that and fed him for an open three? Lawson had a shot to get in front of Bogut, but he's a big Australian. On the second long board, Lawson just got a bad bounce and lost the hustle play to Bogut.
Instead of having the ball up 89-81, the Nuggets gave up a tough three and had their eight point lead cut to five.
The play: :54 seconds, Nuggets up 93-92
What happened: Andre Miller misses a runner, Curry rebounds and quickly gets the ball up court to Thompson. Klay sees no resistance, so he heads to the rim and blows a layup. JaVale McGee is beat to the offensive board by point guard Jack.
Outcome: Warriors ball, down one point with 44.5 seconds on the clock.
What could have gone down: Watch McGee run back on defense. He fails to pick up the ball and doesn't pick up on the sense of urgency on Thompson having the ball ahead of everyone. Chandler sees Thompson receive the outlet and turns on the burners to go for the block. Had McGee turned on the speed, he easily could have come away with the rebound, but instead he allows Jack to sneak in on the ball and beat him to the ball.
The play: 0:44.5 seconds to play, Nuggets lead 93-92 and it's Warriors ball out of bounds
What happened: Thompson inbounds the ball to Jack. Behind the play, Curry curls off a screen and Draymond Green takes out Lawson. Curry gets the ball, but his head is turned away from Lawson, Ty sneaks up (after getting up) and is able to wrestle the ball away from Curry, he races down court, and completes a layup with Thompson contesting.
Outcome: Nuggets take a 95-92 lead with 35.7 seconds left and Jackson is forced to take a timeout.
What could have gone down: The Warriors had a chance for the lead -- they don't even get a shot off.
The play: 0:35.7 seconds left, Nuggets up 95-92
What happened: Thompson gets the ball to Jack, Iggy is now on him and he tries to get the ball to Curry in front of the Nuggets' bench. Chandler denies the pass to Curry (a nice play as Chandler reads the Green screen on Lawson and jumps the passing lane), Iggy bottles up Jack and he's forced to take the Warriors' last timeout.
Outcome: Warriors retain possession, but they are now out of timeouts.
What could have gone down: The Warriors get the game tying three without having to use a timeout and they have a chance to win or tie the game with 1.5 seconds left after the Andre Miller make at the end of the game.
The play: 0:24.4 seconds, Nuggets lead 95-92
What happened: Instead of Thompson inbounding the ball, it's Curry this time. He gets the ball in to Jack, but watch Curry on the play. Curry runs the "elevator doors" play that Golden State loves. He runs into the paint and quickly curls back and runs in-between Harrison Barnes and Bogut. Barnes and Bogut attempt to close the "doors", but Lawson sneaks in. (Watch Barnes go for the tackle on Lawson).
Jack doesn't make a concerted effort to get the ball to Curry as Ty fought through the doors, instead Jack improvises and drives the left-hand side of the lane and fires a nice running pass to Curry. Lawson sunk inside just enough to have to recover wildly at Curry and Steph creates just enough space to get his shot off.
Outcome: Tie game 95-95.
What could have happened: Maybe Ty plays Curry tighter? Just a clutch shot by a good player. Major credit to Curry and to Jack, too -- what a pass.
The play: 0:14.5 seconds, tie game 95-95
What happened: Check out Miller talking to McGee before the play gets underway and checkout Green trying to sneak in on the conversation. As Miller is getting ready to inbound the ball, Lawson -- right in front of the action -- comes off a screen and then curls back into the paint before clearing out to the far sideline. Chandler backs to the three point line in front of the Warriors bench, Iggy hangs out under the hoop (before clearing out near the Warriors bench), and it's McGee who comes out to receive the pass.
McGee gets the ball and quickly dishes it back to Miller. McGee then clears out to the corner (and keeps Bogut far enough way that he can't get to Miller's shot). Andre surveys the landscape near halfcourt before making his move with about :05 seconds left on the clock. The lane is wide open and Miller attacks right down the middle (like he told Ty earlier in the game to do), uses his lefty drive to make Green think left, uses a left foot to propel himself all the way back to the right side of the hoop (where the rim protects his shot), and lays a beauty in off the glass.
Outcome: Nuggets lead 97-95 -- the Warriors have no timeouts and inbound the ball to Curry who is unable to get a hail-mary shot off.
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