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Game 1: Nuggets 97, Warriors 95

The Warriors slowed down the Nuggets transition game. They kept Denver leading scorer Ty Lawson in check. They held high-scoring Denver 11 points below its average.

But Golden State suffered a 97-95 loss to the host Nuggets on Saturday because it had no answer for Andre Miller.

The Nuggets veteran point guard converted the game-winning layup in the final seconds, negating the biggest shot of point guard Stephen Curry’s career, and breaking the Warriors hearts. Miller scored 18 of his 28 points in the fourth quarter to thwart Golden State’s upset bid.

It was dramatic end and a riveting start to a series most expect to be highly entertaining. The Warriors, who led by as much as nine, came from eight points down to nearly steal Game 1.

The Warriors may have lost more than the opener though. Forward David Lee was knocked out of the game with a probable hip flexor strain and didn’t return. His status for Game 2, on Tuesday in Denver, is uncertain.

Curry finished with 19 points and nine assists, but he needed 20 shots and he turned it over five times. Lee had just 10 points on 4 of 14 shooting with four turnovers before he went down.

But the Warriors had a shot to win because of a stellar game from center Andrew Bogut, who had nine points, 14 rebounds, four blocks and three assists. He anchored a defense that held the highest-scoring team in the regular season to 44.7 percent shooting. The Warriors also got 22 points from Klay Thompson to pick up the slack.

The game was tied at 81 before Golden State’s offense hit a cold spell. The Warriors went 3:22 without a point. During that stretch, Miller took over. He scored six of the Nuggets next eight points as Denver built an 89-81 lead.

The Warriors answered with a 3-pointer by Thompson. Then in a one-minute stretch, Bogut blocked two shots and converted two layups, the Warriors trailed 91-88 with just over two minutes left.

Miller answered with another jumper, but on the Warriors’ next possession rookie Draymond Green converted a putback. Golden State got a stop, and a pair of free throws by Jack with 1:14 left made it a 93-92.

The Warriors got the ball back after another stop. But Curry, swarmed by Nuggets defenders, was stripped by Lawson, who converted a fast-break layup on the other end.

But Curry redeemed himself. He capped a helter-skelter possession with a game-tying 3-pointer from the left corner with 14.5 seconds left. That turned out to be too much time.

With rookie forward Draymond Green, one of the Warriors best defenders on him, Miller went straight to the rack and converted the reverse layup with 1.5 seconds left.

The Warriors, who had no timeouts left, couldn’t get a desperation heave off.

The rest of the Nuggets struggled. Lawson finished with 12 points on 15 shots. Forward Wilson Chandler needed 16 shots to get 11 points. And Denver played Game 1 without starting forward Kenneth Faried (sprained ankle).

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Warriors PF David Lee Out With Hip Injury

Warriors forward David Lee will not return after sustaining a probably right hip flexor early in the fourth quarter.

Lee drove to the basket and collided with Nuggets center JaVale McGee. He fell to the court and immediately began holding his groin area. He got up and split the free throws, then the Warriors intentionally fouled to get him out of the game.

Lee had 10 points on 4 of 14 shooting with 14 rebounds and four turnovers in 29 minutes of action

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End of 3Q: Nuggets 71, Warriors 64

You knew Denver would make a run. And the one the Nuggets put together to end the third quarter puts Game 1 in jeopardy for the Warriors.

A 13-2 run over the last 3:47 of the third quarter has Golden State trailing 71-64 entering the fourth. Nuggets swingman Corey Brewer scored seven points during the spurt, including a 3-pointer in the final seconds.

The Warriors led 53-48 after a Curry fade-away. But they managed just a Festus Ezeli free throw over the next two minutes, allowing Denver to stay close. A hook by Nuggets center JaVale McGee cut the Warriors lead to two.

The teams traded baskets for a few minutes. Curry’s pull-up put Golden State ahead 62-58 with 3:48 left. Denver forward Wilson Chandler answered with a fade-away.

But, as was the case in the regular season, they got jumper happy and couldn’t score. The Warriors made one basket the rest of the way, a Thompson jumper with 55 seconds left.

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Half: Warriors 48, Nuggets 33

Point guard Stephen Curry never found his rhythm, finishing the first half with three points on 1 of 10 shooting. But the Warriors didn’t need him to. They had Klay Thompson and some stifling defense.

Thompson scored 13 of his 15 points in the second quarter. And Golden State held the highest scoring team in the league to 16 points on 5 of 19 shooting in the second quarter, securing a 48-44 Warriors advantage at the half.

Warriors coach Mark Jackson may not be too happy, considering the Warriors didn’t close the quarter strong and squandered most of their nine-point lead. But for Golden State to be leading at the half is certainly a positive sign.

The Warriors trailed 28-25 at the end of the first quarter but took control of the game with a 7-2 run to start the second.

A pair of free throws by Nuggets guard Andre Miller had pushed Golden State’s deficit to five points. But the Warriors’ defense took over the game. Thompson got going with a jumper. Then after an offensive foul by  Miller, Lee putback Curry’s missed 3-pointer. After a turnover by Nuggets center JaVale McGee , Curry found Thompson open in the left corner for a 3-pointer. The Warriors led 32-30 with just under 10 minutes left in the half.

Golden State held Denver scoreless for the next four possessions, and Lee got free for a dunk to put the Warriors up 34-30. Their defense didn’t let up, but the Warriors’ offense went on a nearly three-minute drought. A Miller layup and a free throw by Fournier cut Golden State’s lead to 34-33. Curry was trying to get going with his shot, but when he did get a look he missed it. Curry missed his first nine shots.

Fortunately for the Warriors, Thompson was unstoppable. Over a three-minute stretch, facing one-on-one defense, he knocked down four straight jumpers. The last put Golden State up 45-37 with just under three minutes left. The lead grew to 48-39 at the 1:20 mark when Curry finally hit a shot, a 3-pointer from the right side.

Golden State didn’t score the rest of the way, allowing a 5-0 Nuggets run to close the half. McGee threw down a thunderous dunk over Bogut, then Iguodala turned a Curry turnover into a buzzer-beating fast-break layup.

The Warriors have forced nine turnovers thus far and held the Nuggets to 39.5 percent shooting, largely because Bogut (two blocks) is altering shots in the middle. Nuggets forward Wilson Chandler has seven points and 12 rebounds, offsetting Lee’s nine points and nine rebounds. Fournier has nine points on 3 of 8 shooting, playing even with Jack, who has eight points off the bench.

So far,  Thompson is the only Warriors’ advantage, and it’s proving to be enough.

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End of 1st Quarter: Nuggets 28, Warriors 25

Considering the nerves of Game 1, the relative silence of their stars, and being on the road, the Warriors are in good position down 28-25 entering the second quarter.

Point guard Stephen Curry went scoreless on two shots and forward David Lee was 1 of 4 with three turnovers in the opening period. But the Warriors got eight points from Jarrett Jack off the bench and five from rookie Harrison Barnes, making for a tight game.

The Warriors took the early lead despite getting little to nothing from their two leading scorers.

The Nuggets were adamant about denying Curry. Defended by Nuggets point guard Ty Lawson, Curry had an extra man coming his way (Wilson Chandler early) as soon as he got to the 3-point line area. He didn’t get his first look until 5:58 left in the first quarter, missing a runner off the glass from the left side.

But rookie Harrison Barnes and second-year guard Klay Thompson had their shot going early. Barnes got the Warriors started with a 3-pointer. After a Bogut dunk tied the game at 5, Thompson put the Warriors up 7-5 with a pull-up from the right side. Barnes hit another jumper to make it 9-7 three minute into the game.

Golden State led 12-11, on a layup by Lee, before the Nuggets took control of the game. Rookie guard Evan Fournier, who started in place of Denver forward Kenneth Faried, went straight at Curry and scored twice in the lane, the second time putting the Nuggets up 13-12. After Lee’s second turnover in as many possessions, Lawson drove past Thompson for a layup to put the Warriors down three.

Jackson, who usually lets the Warriors play through it, called a timeout.

Denver got up aas high as 18-14 after back-up center JaVale McGee beat Bogut and Carl Landry down the floor for an alley-oop dunk.

But the Warriors settled things.  A 7-2 run, five of which came from the line, put Golden State ahead 21-20. Jack knocked down two jumpers in the final 1:16 to keep the Warriors close.

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Prelude to Game 1: Altitude a Factor, But it Won’t Be an Excuse

The Warriors fashion themselves as a no-excuse basketball team. So even though the Nuggets have a noted home-court advantage, coach Mark Jackson isn’t going to point to that as the culprit should Golden State lose the series.

“We’ve watched every bit of film and I haven’t seen altitude score and I haven’t seen fans score or rebound,” Jackson said during pregame interviews on Saturday. “At the end of the day, credit goes to the coaching staff, led by George Karl, and that group of players. Win lose or draw, it won’t be because of the fans or the altitude.”

Denver finished 38-3 at home. Jackson acknowledged the altitude is a factor — noting that he speaks from experience as a coach, a former visiting player, and a player who once wore a Nuggets uniform.

He said the Warriors came a day early in part to offset the altitude. And he is emphasizing to his players to maximize their minutes.

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A Breakdown of the Matchups: Warriors v. Nuggets

Game 1 of the Warriors-Nuggets playoff series tips off Saturday afternoon. It figures to be the epitome of Western Conference basketball. Both teams have skill and depth, which will make for an interesting chess match between Denver coach George Karl and Golden State’s Mark Jackson.

Neither team has the A-list star to carry them to the next round. That puts added emphasis on the plethora of interesting match-ups featured in this series. Throw in some injury issues, experience gaps and crazy home courts, and you’ve got the makings of something riveting.

Here’s a look at the key match-ups in the series and who has the advantage.

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