Denver Nuggets' Secret Weapon Also Their Oldest Weapon

Jimmy SpencerNBA Lead WriterApril 20, 2013

Andre Miller's layup with 1.3 seconds remaining lifted the Denver Nuggets to a 97-95 victory against the Golden State Warriors in Game 1 of the series.
Andre Miller's layup with 1.3 seconds remaining lifted the Denver Nuggets to a 97-95 victory against the Golden State Warriors in Game 1 of the series.Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

Andre Miller was the unlikeliest of superstars on the squad without superstars.

The old man of the Denver Nuggets, at 37 years old, scored on a driving layup with 1.3 seconds remaining to knock off the Golden State Warriors, 97-95, in Game 1 of their first-round playoff matchup.

Off the bench, Miller became Denver's first star of the postseason.

Miller scored 18 of his 28 points in the fourth quarter and was 11-of-16 shooting in the game, but his biggest moment came on the final, winning possession, when he won the game on an isolation drive to the basket.

Age is nothing but a number, right? Miller is the ninth-oldest player in this postseason.

Miller has been a large part of the Nuggets’ success all year, but this was far from the expectation. Miller averaged 9.6 points and 5.9 assists this season, and no one, especially the Warriors, expected this type of production.

And that’s a perfect fit to the script Denver has been writing all year.

Prior to the postseason, the conversation surrounding the Nuggets’ chances of success centered around the reality that the team doesn’t have a superstar—a Carmelo Anthony type, for example.

But the Nuggets' first victory of the 2013 playoffs further revealed the one thing about Denver that everyone already knew: none of that matters.

With each win, it’s another guy who plays the superstar role.

If there has been an elite player, of course, it’s been Ty Lawson. He led the team in both scoring and assists throughout the regular season.

But with the game tied at 95-95 with 14.5 seconds left, the Nuggets took a timeout. The sharp wits of Denver coach George Karl opted for his veteran, the guy pegged as crafty, not athletic, and a finisher who moves with relaxation in tense moments.

Miller centered the ball from behind the arc, sizing up an isolation against the Warriors' best defensive option, rookie forward Draymond Green. Miller initiated his drive with just over five seconds remaining, cutting through the lane into the Warriors’ late help defense, extending his reach from left to right and finishing with touch on a cunning layup finish.

Warriors guard Klay Thompson decided to stay out to defend Andre Iguodala on the wing while Stephen Curry was stuck between the basket and the corner watching Lawson.

That’s the strength of the Nuggets. There’s no clear answer for Karl to strike with, just as there’s no obvious way to defend against an unpredictable strike.  

Without Kenneth Faried, who dressed in case of emergency but did not play because of an injured ankle, and with the team still recovering from the loss of top shooter Danilo Gallinari, the Nuggets still found contributions in all forms.

Corey Brewer hit a variety of big shots in the second half and scored 10 points while providing value defensively. The same can be said for Iguodala (eight points, 10 rebounds, five assists) and Wilson Chandler (11 points and 13 rebounds).

It wasn't like Lawson was quiet, either. He looked like a fastball compared to Miller's changeup when he controlled the ball, finishing with 12 points, four assists and five rebounds.

Lawson ripped the ball from Curry's hands with 35 seconds left and finished with a layup to give Denver a 95-92 lead. That was before Curry hit a gutsy corner three with hands in his face to tie the game at 95-95, which led to Miller's heroics.

But the depth of the Denver Nuggets, at least in Game 1, was manifested by Miller. The old legs had been given a break heading into the playoffs, as Miller averaged just 21 minutes per game in the team's final three games, though he averaged 28 minutes in April.

Now, he’ll have until Tuesday to rest his legs before he goes back out there for the Nuggets.

Which will be fine, even if he's still tired. Because, as has been the case all season, a new hero is bound to emerge in Game 2 anyway.