Golden boys (cont.)
Posted: Friday May 4, 2007 3:52AM; Updated: Friday May 4, 2007 1:30PM
Second up was Barnes. Nelson said he didn't even know if Barnes could play because of a leg injury, then when he did play, Nelson was scared to take him out (the 5 1/2 minutes Barnes didn't play in the first half, he rode a bike to stay warm). Barnes, the training camp invitee made good, finished with 16 points, 11 rebounds and 7 assists. He guarded Nowitzki for stretches and, perhaps most important, carried the Warriors emotionally. For a guy who didn't even know if he'd be in the league this season, he has a remarkable amount of confidence. All series, he hit big shots, grabbed big rebounds and, for the second game in a row, he dunked on a Mavs big man. This time it was a left-hander on Nowitzki.
The third Warrior, of course, is Baron Davis. In the first quarter, Davis pulled up, gimpy. He had a slight strain of his right hamstring. After stretching and taping it in the locker room, he returned. The entrance wasn't Willis Reed-esque, but perhaps only because much of the crowd didn't seem to know he'd left the bench.
For the first few minutes back, he labored up the floor. He turned the ball over, missed a jumper and got abused twice on defense. I wrote in my notebook: "When does Nelson decide they might be better off without Baron?" It turns out Davis was equally pessimistic; after the game, Jackson said Davis came up to him in the middle of the second quarter. "He told me he didn't have it," said Jackson. "He said that his knee hurt and he couldn't really move."
Apparently, that was fleeting. At the four-minute mark in the second quarter, in keeping with the theme of the series -- which could be summed up as "Baron Davis Hits Ridiculous Shots Whilst Mark Cuban Scowls" -- Davis hit a crazy, off-balance 3-pointer. He followed it with another tough 3-pointer, then a step-back over Nowitzki.
Davis finished with 20, 10 and 6, and whenever the Warriors needed a basket in the second half, it seemed he drove the lane and got it. Earlier in the week, Jackson had said of Davis, "He's our Dirk." After this night, and this series, that's an insult to Davis.
So what of Dirk? He went 1-for-11 in the first half, missed four wide open 3-pointers and looked lost on the court. Johnson would have been better served keeping him on the bench. It was a remarkable playoff immolation and it might take him the better part of his career to overcome it. Consider: Scottie Pippen never lived down one playoff game (not coming in when Kukoc got the last-shot call). Dirk has a whole series to overcome.
Other than Jerry Stackhouse and, for a stretch, Josh Howard, none of the Mavs looked like they knew they were in an elimination game. They were befuddled by the Warriors zone -- a necessity because of Davis' injury -- and were once again beat to all the loose balls. Perhaps they expected the Warriors to lay down after the way they lost Game 5. They weren't alone. After the game, Nelson admitted: "To be quite honest, I was anticipating going back for Game 7."
Instead, it was party time in Oakland, suddenly awash in celebrities. After the game, there was Baron Davis exchanging a shoulder hug with Snoop Dogg ("great, man, great," said the Dogg). There was Woody Harrelson, screaming his way down the tunnel, followed by Owen Wilson and Kate Hudson (friends of Davis').
And there was Ron Artest in the locker room, getting a "WE BELIEVE" T-shirt signed by all the Warriors, like the biggest (and most felonious) 12-year-old in the world. And there, off to the side, was Jason Richardson, the Warrior star who's waited the longest (outside Adonal Foyle). Richardson had seen a lot: the Musselman era, the Montgomery era, one lottery after another. He'd heard about the playoffs but never been there. He sat there and smiled. "All the waiting is worth it," he said, looking around the locker room. "For this moment."