OAKLAND, Calif. -- In a Bible-belt state, or even, say, the Mormon bastion of Utah, whatever it is the denizens of Oracle Arena supply the Warriors might just be deemed illegal.
Another magical Oakland night
A team that appeared to be finally feeling the effects of a short rotation, frenetic style and an opponent in the Jazz ideally equipped to pummel them on the boards, shook all that off to race their way to a 125-105 win Friday night, reducing Utah's lead in the best-of-seven second-round series to 2-1.
"If you saw the guys come off the plane, you wouldn't think they could go on an ice-skating rink," said Warriors coach Don Nelson.
See? Ice-skating? Where did Nelson get that? What does it mean? Can't be withdrawal from the league eliminating his postgame Bud Light already. Clearly, something narcotic is wafting through Oracle's confines.
In any case, nothing like a little taste to smooth over the cracks in the Warriors' confidence that began to show after being out-executed down the stretch in both losses.
"The fans have rubbed off on us," said Stephen Jackson. "They have that no-give-up attitude and we've picked that up from them."
Then again, maybe the team wasn't quite as spent as in Salt Lake City because they rarely had to run beyond the three-point arc to do their damage. Every time the Jazz looked up, a Warrior was hoisting a three and 15 of 32 found the mark, giving Golden State a 27-point advantage over Utah in that department. Five different Warriors buried a pair or more from long range.
"We were scoring points," said Jazz shooting guard Gordan Giricek, "but we couldn't score them as fast as they did."
The Jazz tried to retrieve their dignity twice, first closing the third quarter with a 12-4 run and trimming the Warriors' lead to 16 with nearly 11 minutes left. But that's the value of having Baron Davis over, well, just for example, a Dirk or a T-Mac. With a beard full of "Hell, no!" Davis drove into Mehmet Okur, turned his back to the basket and flipped in a layup off the glass. It didn't just restore the lead to 18, or send the crowd into another frenzy but sent the message that neither Davis nor the Warriors were going to be denied.
He then delivered the exclamation point in the final minutes, barrelling past Jazz point guard Deron Williams, launching himself at the rim, cocking the ball behind his head, and crushing a dunk over and upon one of the league's premier shotblockers, Andrei Kirilenko. That would be the last of Davis' game-high 32 points to go with nine assists and six steals.
"Everybody knows when we need a basket, but it's the type of basket he makes when we need one," said Jackson. "But that's why he's our franchise player."
The 6 p.m. PT tipoff and Friday rush-hour traffic had the arena only two-thirds full at the start, making Oracle Arena less than the ear-ringing cauldron the Mavs experienced in the first round.
"I'd seen it on TV, so I was expecting not to be able to hear myself think," said Derek Fisher. "But it wasn't all that. I was surprised."
The Jazz did their part to keep the joint subdued early on as well. Despite their starting backcourt -- Fisher and Williams -- picking up fouls as fast as the Warriors could bury threes, the Jazz scratched back from an early 13-point deficit to tie the score at 27-all. They did it with Kirilenko as their point guard, no less, the same role he was forced into in Game 2 with Williams in foul trouble, Fisher still making his way back from New York with his cancer-stricken daughter, and rookie Dee Brown sustaining a sprained neck that left him unavailable for Game 3.
Kirilenko, perhaps a little too giddy with his success, ended the quarter by channeling an And-1 Mix Tape and travelled trying a series of moves straight out of The Professor's portfolio.
In the NBA, of course, such moves are violations, giving the ball back to the Warriors. They made the most of it, Matt Barnes finding Jason Richardson off the inbounds for a buzzer-beating 3 and 30-27 lead.
It would be one of 25 Jazz turnovers.
"It was a different role for me, but I will try to do a better job," Kirilenko said.
While "We Believe" placards still covered a surprising number of seats at halftime, there were enough full-throated fans on hand midway through the second quarter to create the crazed atmosphere the Bay Area earned its stripes for while dispatching Dallas.
Utah stuck with its game plan, resolutely running its post-up offense for Carlos Boozer or Matt Harpring, no matter how quickly or often the Warriors drilled threes from the other end. Which happened to be very quickly and quite often. Four in less than three minutes and 11 overall in the first half tied a league playoff record held by four other teams.
The ignition for all the perimeter fireworks, though, was a slashing dunk by Andris Biedrins, his 13 points and 13 rebounds more than his totals for Games 1 and 2 combined. The Jazz were fighting to maintain contact, trailing by 11, when Biedrins crushed one off a dish by Jackson. That kicked off a 22-11 run for a 40-point Golden State quarter, a franchise playoff record for a second quarter.
"I told you," said Warriors forward Al Harrington. "We are a totally different team in this arena."
Point -- or three -- taken.
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Justin Sullivan//Getty Image
Warriors fans were a loud bunch during Golden State's first home second-round playoff game since May 12, 1991.
With one lineup adjustment, Phoenix resolved many of its Game 1 issues and made a Game 2 statement. By replacing James Jones in the starting lineup with Kurt Thomas, Mike D'Antoni made the Suns bigger, stronger defensively and a factor on the boards -- and that's just the start of it.
We spoke in the series preview (and then again after they failed to do so in Game 1) of Phoenix's need to keep Amare Stoudemire out of foul trouble. Stoudemire was second in the league in personal fouls, and by putting Thomas on Tim Duncan, the Suns have greatly reduced Stoudemire's foul-trouble concerns.
While Duncan finished with 29 points (and 11 rebounds) on 12-for-20 shooting, the Suns had a strong counter in Stoudemire (27 and 12). If Thomas can contain Duncan without assistance and Stoudemire can continue to play to his Game 2 standards, it will go a long way towards Phoenix negating the Duncan Factor and making this series about the other players.
The Nets came into Game 2 knowing that if they could just do a better job on the backboards then they could leave Cleveland with a split. Every other aspect of their play seemed OK, if not good. That Cleveland so thoroughly demolished them again on the glass leads me to two conclusions about Game 3:
1. The Cavs are a much tougher team than the Nets because they were able to outmuscle New Jersey when the Nets made rebounding priority one for Game 2.
2. Because of fact 1, the Nets need to change their approach wholly in the remaining games.
AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
Baron Davis on his dunk on AK-47 with 2:48 left: "I was going to try to reverse it, but knowing he was a great shot-blocker, I thought I would just try my luck, and I got lucky."
Quote of the Day:
-- Andrew Ayres
The only thing that matched the entertainment value of Baron Davis' dunk over Andrei Kirilenko in the closing minutes were the responses in the Warriors' lockerroom afterward.
Jason Richardson, a two-time league dunk champion: "It was the greatest dunk I have ever seen with my eyes in person."
Al Harrington: "That was old B-Diddy, when he was in Charlotte."
Baron: "I shocked myself."
So did his shirt-raising act afterward that earned a T.
If there's reason to believe the Jazz won't be cowed by the decisive loss and the prospect of another evening inside the raucous Oracle -- a la Dallas -- it's the demeanor of forward Carlos Boozer. As the Jazz jogged off the court to escape the cascading confetti and the deliriously cheering crowd, Boozer had an amused grin and whispered into rookie Paul Millsap's ear: "Don't worry about it."
He offered more of the same in the lockerroom afterward. "Trust me, we're going to be fine," he said. "We just have to get back into the lab and work on a few things."
-- Ric Bucher at Oracle Arena
There's little doubt that Amare Stoudemire has put Bruce Bowen and Manu Ginobili under the microscope by not only labeling the Spurs a dirty team but providing multiple detailed examples to back up his argument. (Click here for a rather thorough account, from the venerable Mike Monroe of the San Antonio Express-News of Stoudemire's stance.)
If the spotlight Amare has trained on the Spurs makes Bowen or Ginobili tentative or makes the league watch them closer -- especially when Ginobili is already beating himself up after failing to make a single second-half shot in either of the first two games in Phoenix -- the Suns will have generated a measure of justice from the incident.
How about Charlotte's Adam Morrison getting 22 votes for Rookie of the Year -- 11 second and 11 third -- when he was quite possibly the single worst player in the league this year? Stand up and raise your hand if you didn't watch a Bobcats game, voters -- I'm guessing there's exactly 22 of you out there.
Of course, the league's coaches (or the assistants they had fill out their ballots) didn't fare much better here. Morrison also was just two points away from making first-team All-Rookie, getting 11 more first-place votes than the guy who took his job, Walter Herrmann.