After game one of the first round series in the NBA Playoffs between the Golden State Warriors and the Denver Nuggets, many people, Warriors fans in particular, probably felt like all hope was lost for the Warriors. Their star forward, David Lee, had gone down with a torn hip flexor and won’t return for the rest of the regular season. With his absence, many people expected Golden State to struggle.
However, when game two rolled around, Warriors head coach Mark Jackson made what turned out to be a brilliant move by playing a version of small-ball with rookie Harrison Barnes starting at the power forward position in place of Lee. There’s no doubt that move was a bit of a gamble coming into the game, but it paid enormous dividends in the Warriors’ 131-117 victory.
Though the performer of the night was probably Stephen Curry, the impact that Barnes had on the game was enormous. He finished the night with 24 points, six rebounds, two assists and one steal on 9-14 shooting from the floor and 2-5 shooting from long range. He looked like anything but a rookie playing in only his second playoff game ever.
The reason Barnes was able to have so much success is because of the matchup problems that he presents for the Nuggets. At 6’8” and 210 pounds, Barnes has nice size, but he also has great quickness for a guy his size and has a smooth jump shot. Because of these attributes, he is able to matchup with any power forward that the Nuggets throw at him. If they put a bigger guy on him, he is able to blow by them and get to the rim. If they put a quicker guard on him to prevent him driving, he has the ability to knock down a deep jumper. At that position he becomes a matchup nightmare.
There’s a chance that Barnes caught lightning in a bottle, but that’s very unlikely. He wasn’t doing anything out of character in game two except for being more aggressive to take advantage of his matchups. If Jackson continues to roll with Barnes at the power forward, it’s definitely going to prove to be beneficial for Golden State in this series.