Game 6 just got that much more interesting.
What started as a blowout ended as a nail biter with a little drama on the way out. The Nuggets survived with a 107-100 win in Game 5, nearly blowing a 22-point lead. Golden State’s comeback not only put a bit of fear in Denver, but made it even more eager to close the series out in Game 6.
KLAY THOMPSON: “This one stings. It would’ve been nice to have a few days off. We just have to play like it’s Game 7 on Thursday. Treat it like it’s our last home game.”
The Warriors knew Denver, behind on the scorecards, was going for the knockout. Admittedly, they were woozy after the Nuggets early onslaught. But they left the Pepsi Center foaming at the mouth for another crack at the Nuggets. They took what they thought was Denver’s best punch and still almost won.
It’s far from the doubt a blowout loss could have created, as the pressure shifts to Golden State to avoid a Game 7 in Denver.
STEPHEN CURRY: “We gave (them) a 20-point lead and they did all they could to try to take us out of our game. And we figured out a way to make it interesting down the stretch. I feel like our confidence is high.”
More on the Game 5 loss …
WRITER’S RANT: The replay is certainly obvious. Kenneth Faried, as Curry jogged by, stuck his foot out and tried to trip Curry, and hit him with a bit of an elbow as a cherry on top.
Obviously, given his history, any activity below the knee is sensitive area. That’s why Curry turned around with words for the guy who had about five inches and 40 pounds on him. Jackson seemed to think it was part of the a plan. The Nuggets implied they had a plan with all their “hit first” comments.
With that said, everyone needs to relax on the trying-to-hurt-me talk. It’s a taint on an otherwise riveting series.
If Jackson is right, and there is a hit out on Curry, that’s a pretty weak hit. Weak enough to not even mention. To hear Faried say the Warriors try to hurt him every night is laughable, considering he’s gotten nothing but some paint elbows and aggressive blockouts. JaVale McGee said the Warriors’ play was unsanitary? He’s got to be the most wild, reckless, outta control player in the series. He’s that dude at the park you hate playing with because they are constantly doing too much and somebody’s going to get hurt because he can’t control his gangly-ness.
They need to stop with the accusations about others’ intent. Say it’s physical. Say it’s chippy. Say it’s rough. Say emotions are high and these teams don’t like each other. But chill with the he’s-trying-to-hurt-me stuff.
ANDREW BOGUT: “It’s physical basketball. Guys are going to get hit. Guys are going to get taken out. It’s for you guys to interpret what’s cheap and what’s not. For the most part, we can’t sit here and complain. I have had my fair share of physical screens and so on in this series, and so have they. It’s a playoff series. We’ve just got to adjust to that physicality and go out and win game 6.”
If guys were really trying to hurt one another, there would be undercutting, and walking under jump shooters, and swinging elbows up high, and punches to groin areas. Or basically every Knicks-Heat series featuring Alonzo Mourning and Larry Johnson.
I’m not saying don’t be upset. I’m not saying don’t take exception. Everything is relative, and in today’s NBA this type of pushing and shoving isn’t allowed. But if you really think someone is out to hurt you, send in a goon to commit a flagrant two. (If Biedrins or Timofey Mozgov checks in, you know what’s up).
MVP: Harrison Barnes
He was the reason the Warriors didn’t lose by 30. He led Golden State with 23 points, and all of his career-high tying 5 3-pointers seemed to be at critical moments for the Warriors. He was the one Warrior who didn’t appear some way or another effected by the moment.
MDP: Andrew Bogut
Denver stepped up its physical quotient, and the Warriors’ enforcer took a step backward. The Nuggets went back to playing big, instead of matching up with the Warriors’ small ball, and overwhelmed Bogut inside., Denver racked up 34 points in the paint (more than half their 66). They outrebounded the Warriors 29-17, including 11 offensive rebounds that led to 15 second-chance points the first two quarters. Bogut, meanwhile, looked nothing like the dominant center he was in Game 5.
BOGUT: “Faried set the tone for them inside. He was physical. He was bouncing around, getting loose balls, doing what he does well. McGee got a couple of early baskets as well. Ty Lawson again was in the paint as well. He’s going to get into the paint, because he’s that good of a player. We just need to adjust what we do when he gets in the paint.”
TELLING STAT: The Warriors’ shot 43.2 percent on Tuesday, well below their series average and certainly below the 64.6 percent they shot last time they played at the Pepsi Center. The Warriors lived on the outside, taking 29 3-pointers and simply weren’t converting.
Golden State came into the series shooting 53.3 percent for the series. Curry was 7 of 19 with just one 3-pointer. Jarrett Jack, who’d made 28 of his 38 shots in the three Warriors’ victories, was 7 of 16 shooting.
The Warriors came into the game averaging a playoff-high 112.8 points per game but managed just one 30-point quarter in Game 5.
THAT ONE HURT: The Warriors had the Nuggets on the verge of panic mode. Their 22-point lead was down to 100-95 in the final minutes. The Pepsi Center let out a gasp as Curry walked into a wide open 3-pointer. It would’ve cut Denver’s lead to two and really put the Nuggets in danger of losing the series.
But Curry missed it.
The rebound caromed to Klay Thompson, who was tucked in the right corner. He immediately hoisted the 3, He missed it, too.
Denver got the rebound and pushed it the other way. Wilson Chandler found himself on the right wing. He buried the 3-pointer, pushing Golden State’s deficit to 8. That six point swing doomed the Warriors.
NEED MORE FROM: Stephen Curry. He had 15 points on 7 of 19 shooting, missing a lot of makeable shots. He’d get into the lane and miss layups. He’d get a good look off a screen and brick. Clearly, the standard is higher from him. But the fact is, the Warriors need him to generate offense even when his shot isn’t falling. He did a good job of setting guys up, especially early. But he’d help himself a lot by getting to the to the free throw line, even if that means selling the contact. When your shot isn’t falling, you want layups and free throws. When you’re coming from behind, free throws are great because they are points while the clock stop. Curry took zero free throws in Game 5, which is odd considering the Nuggets admitted roughing him up. But part of that is on Curry for not making the officials make calls.
COACHES CORNER: George Karl rebounded well in Game 5. He took Kenneth Faried’s advice and scraped the game plan and got back to “Nuggets basketball.”
Karl went back to his big lineup and Warriors coach Mark Jackson didn’t adjust.
He stuck with the small lineup of Jarrett Jack at point and Harrison Barnes at power forward. Denver had size advantages in three spots on the floor: Faried over Barnes, small forward Wilson Chandler over shooting guard Klay Thompson and swingman Andre Iguodala over point guard Stephen Curry. And with Bogut not being Bogut, the Warriors were in trouble early.
If Jackson starts Landry, would he be able to match the Nuggets’ physicality early? Would he have had more punch with Jack coming into the lineup, preventing the Nuggets from building such an early lead?
* Jackson sat Bogut for most of the second half, a questionable move even though Bogut wasn’t playing well. Jackson said he wasn’t moving with the same activity and liveliness, perhaps a result if getting just one day off between games.
Bogut’s absence was especially noticeable when the Warriors had Ezeli finshing the game at center and at times looked un comfortable.
* Jackson tried to go super small and it backfired. He went stretches with Draymond Green at center. The Warriors got hot for astretch and cut the lead to 41-31. But they were completely vulnerable on the other end, especially since the Nuggets had two center son the floor, gave the momentum right back by allowing an 8-0 Denver run to pushed the lead to 49-31.
However, the small lineup worked in the end. It forced the Nuggets to go small as well since McGee was having to chance around a little guy. The Warriors were much better defensively in the second half.
The Warriors held the Nuggets to 41 points on 37.8 percent shooting and outrebounded them 25-17 after halftime.
* Denver is playing sort of a box-and-one on Curry. Kinda. They put Iguodala on Curry and trusts his length will be able to contest shots. Everywhere else, they are sagging off and playing for the pass. If the Warriors try to post, there is no room. If they try to get in the lane, it’s crowded. Jack, Thompson, Barnes and Landry weren’t able to get anything at the rim as usual, forcing them to settle for jumpers.
It seemed Jackson could have countered that by putting Curry at point guard, but he left Jack at point guard. When Curry ran point, the Nuggets were committed to him. They either trapped or the help was eager. This created openings and lanes. With Jack at point, they sagged. They know what the Warriors are running so they are playing the play and not the players, jumping the routes and playing the pass. They can’t do that with Curry, which is part of the reason his assists are way up this series.
*It remains to be seen if Jackson helped or hurt the Warriors with his postgame talk of hit men. If the refs play close attention and Curry starts getting calls, brilliant, If the Warriors spend Game 6 whining to the refs, not so much. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Golden State has a tape on its way to the league office about the fouls it feels is being committed on Curry.
WHAT HE SAID: “”Did Draymond Green play football or basketball at Michigan State?” Denver coach George Karl
FOR NEXT GAME: The Warriors need a better plan for Iguodala. If they leave Curry guarding him one-on-one, he could have another big game. Jackson might have to start Landry to keep the matchups true. Denver was looking to post-up the smaller Warrior frequently. If Golden State stays small, they need to come with the double quicker. Because leaving undersized guards to fend for themselves inside is not only questionable defensive strategy, it exposes Curry to foul trouble (because he’s going to reach and swipe to try for the steal).
SEE, WHAT HAD HAPPENED WAS: They way Bogut put it, they got tangled up. What actually happened was a two-hand shove that sent Faried flying into the front row. It was definitely a push, but the were the push occurred (up by Faried’s neck) made Bogut’s true attempt look much worse. No doubt, Bogut wanted to push him. But the reality was he wasn’t moving well and Faried was hyper and bouncing around, and headed for the boards. Bogut’s push was less a retaliation for Curry than it was irritation at Faried. And since he wasn’t moving well, a nice shove was Bogut’s best way of keeping Faried out of the lane. In Golden State’s locker room, several thought Faried flopped to make it look worse, which had a few shaking their heads. “You’re supposed to be the Manimal and you’re flopping?”
No doubt, Faried is a marked man in Golden State’s locker room. They know he hurts them and since they can’t compete with him athletically, they compensate in the physical department. Plus, you get the sense several Warriors don’t like Faried, or McGee. Apparently Faried and McGee do a lot of tough talking on the court.
SERIOUSLY?!: The Pepsi Center was noticeably less intense an environment than in Games 1 and 2. There were plenty empty seats at tipoff. Heading into the game, the Nuggets were trying to solicit a disappointed fan base by offering $3 playoff tickets.