Golden State Warriors forward Harrison Barnes hasn't had a rookie season filled with gaudy numbers for good reason; he hasn't had to provide them on an offensively-potent squad that finished the regular season ranked seventh in points per game with 101.2.
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As the Warriors' first-round series with the Denver Nuggets moved to Game 2 Tuesday night, that all changed.
The key injury to All-Star double-double-maker David Lee, who is out for the remainder of the postseason with a hip flexor tear, opened the door for Barnes to get more scoring opportunities as the next option behind Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson. That means that Barnes, who always had the talent to shine, now has the opportunity to show what he can do on the NBA's greatest stage.
He seized it in a big way against the Nuggets, starting at power forward and finishing with 24 points, six rebounds, two assists and one steal.
Head coach Mark Jackson recognized Barnes was a special player, and knew all along what his rookie could do.
"Harrison Barnes for a rookie hasn't been getting the respect that he deserves," Jackson told reporters following the game. "A rookie that starts for a No. 6 seed all year long. Defends, doesn't kill you with numbers, but does everything the right way. Just an incredible performance by him, by that entire group."
During the regular season, Barnes averaged 9.2 points, 4.1 rebounds and 1.2 assists per game in 81 contests. It's worth noting that Lee was healthy for nearly the entire season in his own regard and was productive in leading the league with 56 double-doubles while averaging 18.5 points and 11.2 rebounds per game in 79 games. That factor, coupled with the emergence of Thompson and Curry as stars, has contributed to Barnes' relatively quiet first year.
The playoffs have a tendency to bring out the best in players, but for Barnes, he's always had the ability as projected when the Warriors took him the No. 7 overall pick in the 2012 NBA Draft. Now, the postseason is giving him a platform to do what he was drafted to do.
It's a welcome marriage of opportunity and talent since Golden State will need that type of effort from him in order to succeed in the playoffs without Lee's production. He'll have the opportunity to do it again at 10:30 p.m. ET on Friday night in front of his home crowd.
Quotes via NBA.com/live1