Sleep deprived but back in the Bay Area, the Golden State Warriors returned to work Wednesday calm and confident their Mile High City masterpiece will be no fluke.
The Warriors wrestled away home-court advantage with a 131-117 domination of Denver on Tuesday night, evening the best-of-seven series at a game apiece.
They shot nearly 65 percent, made 14 of 25 3-point attempts and had four players score at least 20 points in one of the most efficient performances in NBA playoff history.
For coaches and players on both sides, those staggering numbers offered both comfort and concern as the series shifts to Oakland for Game 3 on Friday night.
“We can’t get trapped into the mindset that because we’re home everything is going to be fine,” Warriors coach Mark Jackson said during the off day at team headquarters. “I understand the crowd is going to be off the charts, and it’s going to be a lot of fun. But at the same time, we are dealing with a team that is the No. 3 seed. They are going to come prepared, and we’ve got to be ready for them.”
Golden State’s offensive outpouring flipped a critical part of this matchup: home court.
For all the talk about Denver’s NBA-best 38-3 home record entering the playoffs, the Nuggets struggled on the road all season. Denver finished 19-22 away from the Pepsi Center, by far the biggest home-road win disparity in the league.
The Warriors went 28-13 at home and have sold out 32 consecutive games at Oracle Arena, where fan support is strong even when the team is terrible. Now that Golden State is preparing to host its first playoff game since 2007 – when the team upset top-seeded Dallas in the first round – and only the second time in 19 years, popularity is at a fever pitch.
Blue-and-gold lights decorate the streets, and buses in both San Francisco and Oakland are driving around with electronic banners that read: “Go Warriors.”
“We’re looking forward to playing at home, but there’s a lot left to do,” guard Jarrett Jack said. “We didn’t come here just to win one game and celebrate. There’s still a lot of business left.”
With the way Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson suddenly are shooting, Golden State’s raucous crowd hardly will be Denver’s only obstacle.
The Nuggets are coming off their worst defensive showing of the season. The best anybody had shot against Denver was 54 percent by the Los Angeles Lakers all the way back on Nov. 30, and the most points the Nuggets had allowed was 126 at San Antonio on Nov. 17. Both were losses.
The Warriors’ 64.6 shooting percentage also was the highest in the playoffs since Utah’s 65.1 percent in a 129-90 win over Phoenix on April 25, 1991.
“I told the team I thought we played a regular-season game in a playoff intensity,” Nuggets coach George Karl said after the team’s practice in Denver on Wednesday. “We’ll learn that desperate teams are dangerous. Desperate teams that shoot the heck out of the ball are really dangerous. We’re OK. We’re fine. I never thought this wasn’t going to be anything except a close series.”
Besides the shooting percentages, the biggest change from Game 1 to Game 2 was the lineup.
Golden State lost All-Star forward David Lee to a torn right hip flexor in the opener. Instead of starting Carl Landry in Lee’s place, Jackson played three guards – Curry, Jack and Thompson – and shifted Harrison Barnes from small forward to power forward with Andrew Bogut at center.
The small lineup gave Denver fits and minimized top rebounder and energizer Kenneth Faried, who had two points and four rebounds off the bench after missing Game 1 with a sprained ankle. Faried likely is to resume his starting role in Game 3, Karl said, and the Nuggets need him at his best.
The Warriors have outrebounded Denver 91 to 71 in the first two games.
“I take a lot of the blame, trying to get back into the rotation,” Faried said. “I wasn’t aware of how fast the game was this time around, because last year I was able to come off the season and still keep my pace. This year, coming off the injury and in the playoffs right away, I believe it messed the speed of the game for our team.”
While the Warriors have been a better home team (and also went 19-22 on the road this season), the two meetings against the Nuggets in Oakland have been anything but runaways.
Denver won 107-101 in double overtime Nov. 10, and Golden State held on for a wild 106-105 victory on Nov. 29 after Andre Iguodala’s 3-pointer at the buzzer sounded was waived off.
With a franchise-best home winning streak of 24 games gone, the Nuggets know how quickly things can change again.
“I don’t recall many series where there isn’t as least one blowout game,” Karl said. “Unfortunately, we’d like to be on the giving rather than the taking.”
AP Sports Writer Pat Graham in Denver contributed to this report.