The Golden State Warriors hardly missed much of anything Tuesday night.
Not their shots.
Not their injured All-Star.
Stephen Curry had 30 points and 13 assists and the scrappy Warriors handed the Denver Nuggets their first loss at home in more than three months, a 131-117 stunner that evened their playoff series at a game each.
Rallying around injured David Lee, who cheered on the bench in street clothes, the Warriors 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.
The sixth-seeded Warriors, who became the second road team to win in the postseason following Chicago’s victory at Brooklyn on Monday, wrested homecourt advantage from the NBA’s best home team in the series that shifts to Oakland for Game 3 on Friday night.
”They were knocking down shots,” Denver’s Andre Iguodala said in an understatement
Better than they ever had before in a playoff game, a franchise playoff-record 64.6 percent from the field (51 of 79).
”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.
Ty 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.”
The Nuggets pulled within 76-69, but Thompson hit a 3-pointer from the right corner and Curry a 3 from the left to make it 82-69. Both were wide open as Denver’s mismatched defenders were again running ragged trying to keep up with the Warriors, who handled the altitude just fine.
Denver got its deficit down to 115-105 but this time it was Jack’s turn to make a wide-open 3 with the Nuggets defenders scrambling around.
Faried finished with four points and two rebounds in 21 minutes.
The arena was half-empty by the time the horn sounded, a solitary fan yelling derisively, ”Tacos!” when Evan Fournier’s free throw fell through the hoop to give the Nuggets 110 points, the magic number for a promotion in which fans get discounted tacos.
Notes: The Warriors shot a sizzling 61 percent in the first half, when they outrebounded the Nuggets 21-14. … The Nuggets’ last loss at home was 112-108 to the Washington Wizards on Jan. 18. … Denver had just eight fast-break points, compared to Golden State’s 14. … Curry’s 30-10 playoff game was the first for the franchise since Sleepy Floyd on May 10, 1987.
Follow Arnie Melendrez Stapleton on Twitter: http://twitter.com/arniestapleton