OAKLAND, Calif. -- Sometime after the Golden State Warriors beat the visiting Denver Nuggets 110-108 in a game that was chaotically thrilling, Warriors coach Mark Jackson told the dazed reporters: "You know the great thing about Jarrett Jack?"
Really, what he said next could have gone in a variety of directions. Jarrett Jack had interspersed a terrible game with a fantastic one, a brilliant performance with one that was comically mistake-ridden from the outset. Oracle Arena was treated to Jarrett Jack's roller coaster ride, the kind where a man can score 23 points on 14 shots while seeming like a saboteur on every other possession.
Jackson completed his thought: 'If I went into the locker room now and I told [Jack], 'Great job,' he would look at me and say, "I gotta take care of the basketball."
No kidding. Jack had seven turnovers to his seven assists, including a five-seconds violation that nearly coughed up an all-but-assured Game 3 win that put Golden State up 2-1 in the West first-round series.
At the same time, you could argue that he was indispensable, that he took a frightening moment and steered his team through the thickets. He was, as the cliché goes, a "scares me, scares you" performer. Jack terrorized Warriors fans and Nuggets fans in equal measure.
The Warriors were down 12 at the half and looked as though they were succumbing to a mix of inexperience and brain-rattling crowd noise. In the third quarter, Jack scored 10 points, gave out 4 assists and managed a plus-15 as his team came roaring back.
It wasn't as though Jack's quarter imbued the crowd with confidence in his stewardship. The handle was often shaky, the decisions were often questionable. But this is common for a player whose results often trump process. It's not unusual for Jack's seemingly worst decisions to reap the greatest rewards. He is inscrutable and occasionally unguardable. Though low-key in off-court demeanor, his on-court contribution evokes something like, "point guard J.R. Smith."
The Warriors certainly needed his bizarre iteration of swagger to break from Denver's stranglehold. The Nuggets were trapping Golden State's guards high above the 3-point line, daring them to pass to bigs who couldn't handle and create like the injury-absent David Lee. The strategy resulted in 13 Warriors turnovers and a quite a few near cough-ups and altogether bad decisions.
Ironically, the vaunted Oakland crowd may have been a bigger help to the opponent. From press row, the ref's whistle was often inaudible. On the court, the results were similar. Stephen Curry informed reporters that he couldn't make sense of his fouled 3-point attempt (Was it a technical? Some other stoppage?) because the din was so great.
Such a confusing, confluence of energy and sound appeared to even fuel a naturally enlivened Nuggets squad. As the Warriors tried to take disorder and turn it into offense, Andre Iguodala and company seized on the hesitancy.
Curry, who steadily managed 29 points and 11 assists amid the chaos, recalled, "It was tough to hear. We had some miscommunications a couple times, but we got better as the game went on, adjusting to the atmosphere. That showed in the second half."
The smallest guy likely had the loudest game. Ty Lawson scored 35 points and kicked out passes for 10 assists for the Nuggets. Much of the damage came against Jack, who described Lawson as "a handful," "pretty much a jet with the basketball," before adding that Lawson "wants to get to the rim at all costs."
Down one with under 10 seconds to go, Lawson had the opportunity to deliver a final blow. Instead, he bellyflopped off of contact with Festus Ezeli. That begat what might have been a jump ball, were a jump ball called, which led to Harrison Barnes hitting 1 of 2 free throws. Finally, Iguodala just missed what would have been a game-winning half-court heave, giving the crowd one final spike of fear before sending them home happy. Oracle was a madhouse on Friday night, and the game followed suit. It was only natural that the Warriors survived by the grace of Jarrett Jack's highly irrational style.
When queried on whether he got fearful on Friday's wild ride, Jack replied dryly: "No. Can't get fearful because then you start to second-guess yourself. And once you do that, you tend to make more mistakes."