David Lee, an eight-year NBA veteran, tore his right hip flexor in Golden State's 97-95 loss to Denver in Game 1—the first playoff game of his career. Although he's not expected to need surgery, he has since been ruled out for the remainder of the postseason (via ESPN.com).
That meant Warriors coach Mark Jackson was tasked with replacing Lee's team-leading 11.2 rebounds per game, as well as his 18.5 points. Coupled with the return of Nuggets second-year forward Kenneth Faried, who had missed Denver's previous three games with a sprained ankle, the Warriors faced an even steeper uphill climb.
Although Golden State lost its only All-Star, it still had a superstar-in-the-making to fall back on, one that the Nuggets were waiting for via Marcus Thompson of the Bay Area News Group:
Ty Lawson on GSW w/o Lee: "I think Curry and Klay Thompson are going to be a lot more aggressive, and Jack ... gotta try to slow them down."— Marcus Thompson (@gswscribe) April 23, 2013
Like Lee, Stephen Curry also made his postseason debut on Saturday night. And, like Lee, it was a game that he'd love to have back (19 points, 7-of-20 from the field and five turnovers).
But Curry had the chance to rewrite his playoff story, and took full advantage of the opportunity.
When the Warriors needed him to pick up the scoring slack, he happily obliged pouring in a game-high 30 points. When the Nuggets over-committed on slowing him down, he carved up the Denver defense with delicious dimes (13 assists against one turnover).
Curry's had a nose for sniffing out majestic performances on the biggest stages. His two most prolific outings this season, 54 and 47 points, came on the road inside two of the league's most storied venues, Madison Square Garden and the Staples Center, respectively.
But despite his monstrous efforts, those two performances resulted in nothing more than a pair of Warriors' losses.
Tuesday night, though, was unlike anything that Warriors fans had seen.
With Curry striking the delicate balance between scorer and facilitator, the Warriors' offense put on a display for the ages.
Golden State sprinted through the thin Rocky Mountain air en route to a commanding 131-117 rout. The Warriors connected on 64.6 percent of their field-goal attempts and 56.0 percent of their long-range bombs to tie this series at one game a piece.
Rookie Harrison Barnes, starting in place of the injured Lee at the power forward spot, responded with a career-high 24 points. Klay Thompson and Jarrett Jack, the other two components in Mark Jackson's three-guard lineup, combined for 47 points, nine assists and six rebounds.
Can Curry carry the Warriors into the second round?
But those performances may be lost in the Golden State history books, or at least reduced to a sidebar with Curry's epic night.
He rounded out his already impressive stat line with five rebounds and three assists. He logged more than 41 minutes despite rolling his left ankle (luckily not his surgically repaired one) midway through the third quarter.
He'll surely be granted with a hero's welcome by an anxious Oracle Arena crowd when this series shifts to the Bay Area for Game 3 on Friday night.
But if Tuesday's game was any indication, he'll keep the building rocking long after the pre-game introductions are finished.