The Warriors committed an astounding nine turnovers in the final eight minutes of Game 6 against the Nuggets but still found a way to win 92-88, thereby advancing to face the Spurs in a Western Conference semifinals series that begins Monday.
Golden State proved that sometimes you can win crucial, make-or-break playoff games in spite of yourself and without poise. No one in Oracle was complaining once the result was secured, but that doesn't make the hijinks down the stretch any less memorable. Jarrett Jack, Stephen Curry, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson were all guilty of getting loose with the rock down the stretch as Golden State nearly blew an 18-point fourth-quarter lead in the closeout game of just their second playoff series victory since 1995.
How Warriors fans survived this onslaught of chaos, we'll never know. But here's a blow-by-blow breakdown of the mishaps.
Turnover No. 1, 7:23 remaining: Jack, third-place in the Sixth Man of the Year voting this year, attacks an empty paint off the dribble to his left, only to lose his handle on the ball as he was able to go up into a shot, squandering a possession out of bounds to the baseline. A fairly innocuous mistake to kick off this mess. The Warriors led 80-65 at this point, having previously held an 80-62 lead earlier in the period.
Turnover No. 2, 6:49 remaining: Less than a minute later, Jack tries to pass the ball to Carl Landry, who is posting up on JaVale McGee. The entry pass is light and McGee reaches around Landry on the top side to deflect the ball, skipping into the stands to save the possession and force the turnover for the Nuggets. The Warriors still led 80-65.
Turnover No. 3, 5:56 remaining: This one happened so quickly the TNT cameras could barely catch up. Ty Lawson stripped Stephen Curry on the inbounds pass after a JaVale McGee bucket and then quickly converted a lay-up of his own for a four-point swing. The Warriors lead was therefore cut to 80-71.
Turnover No. 4, 4:56 remaining: Curry had some breathtaking moments in this game -- and throughout the series -- but this behind-the-back pass to Landry sailed out of bounds despite a diving effort to save the ball. The expression on Curry's face afterward made it clear he immediately regretted the casual play. The Warriors now led 80-73.
Turnover No. 5, 1:37 remaining: After settling down -- relatively speaking -- the Warriors managed to go more than three straight minutes without a turnover until Curry sailed a pass off of Andrew Bogut's fingertips that carried from nearly halfcourt into the baseline out-of-bounds area. Just a little too much zip on the zip pass. The Warriors now led 88-82.
Turnover No. 6, 1:23 remaining: Somehow, after all that, the Warriors were just getting started with the turnovers. A botched dribble hand-off exchange in the backcourt found Curry out of bounds on the sideline in front of Golden State's bench under minimal pressure. What the heck was going on here? The Warriors still led 88-82.
Turnover No. 7, 1:14 remaining: Just seconds later, the Warriors thought they had a key defensive stop when Green snared the defensive rebound after Lawson missed a mid-range jumper. Unfortunately, Andre Miller and Wilson Chandler went digging for a steal under the hoop and they found one, stripping Green clean and allowing Chandler to convert a quick lay-up before Golden State realized what had happened. An 18-point Warriors lead had now been cut all the way to four points, 88-84. The Nuggets weren't quite done yet though.
Turnover No. 8, 1:12 remaining: Just seconds later, again, Green compounded his mistake by carelessly tossing the inbounds pass into space alongside Curry. What was the plan here? Why was there zero communication between two players standing a few feet apart? Who knows. Total panic. Miller controlled the loose ball and fed a cutting Lawson, who couldn't convert a contested lay-up attempt. Bullet dodged. Golden State still led 88-84.
Turnover No. 9, 20 seconds remaining: One last screwed up inbounds play for the road. Now leading by just two points with 23 seconds left, Thompson overshot Curry while inbounding from the frontcourt sideline. The deflected pass got batted around and eventually settled in Chandler's hands. The Warriors again lucked out when the Nuggets couldn't cash in on the mistake, and two Jarrett Jack free throws on the ensuing Golden State possession provided the final score, 92-88.
What a night. What a finish. What a mess.