Facing elimination, the Denver Nuggets jumped to an early lead in the first quarter, and dominated throughout the first half. Denver held on to a 20-point halftime lead, beating the Golden State Warriors 107-100.
Denver’s renewed aggressiveness may have manifested itself in more than just their play. In his post-game press conference, Warriors coach Mark Jackson accused the Nuggets of trying to intentionally harm Stephen Curry. “(Denver) tried to send hit men on Steph,” said Jackson, who claimed to have been warned by members of the Nuggets’ organization about their plans.
The Nuggets were physical with Curry all night, but a few plays stood out as especially rough. In the first quarter, Kenneth Faried elbowed Curry as he was coming off a screen, and appeared to try and trip him. No foul was called, and Jackson erupted at the sideline official.
Denver’s physicality and the Warriors’ complaints may be the dominant post-game story, but there were many other factors that contributed to Golden State’s comeback and Denver’s eventual victory, including Curry’s abnormal ineffectiveness from three-point range. Curry, 1-of-7, shot a lower percentage from behind the arc in only four games all season.
Why the Warriors Lost
The Warriors mounted an impressive comeback, outscoring Denver 31-21 in the fourth quarter, but could not overcome their struggles earlier in the game.
The first quarter was a microcosm of what could have been for the Denver Nuggets. The Warriors struggled to score against Denver’s aggressive perimeter defenders, while the hyper-athletic Nuggets attacked the Warriors in transition and pounded them in the half-court.
Denver out rebounded Golden State 46-33, and held the Warriors to 35-of-81 shooting and a 50 percent adjusted field goal percentage. Denver closed the game without a center, but did play Kosta Koufos and Javale McGee for a combined 35 minutes, contributing to the Warriors’ inability to convert opportunities near the basket.
This Golden State shot chart reveals their struggles in the paint:
With two minutes left in the game, the Warriors had eroded Denver’s 20 point halftime lead down to five, when Jarrett Jack rebounded a missed three-point jumper by Wilson Chandler. The Warriors hurried in transition, opening Curry for a three- pointer. Curry missed, and Klay Thompson got the offensive rebound. Thompson passed out, then hustled to the right corner. Denver botched their matchups after the offensive rebounding, leaving Thompson open from the corner, but Thompson rimmed out the jump shot. Andre Igoudala rebounded, and the Nuggets eventually found Wilson Chandler for an open corner three, which he made. After two relatively open attempts by their two best three-point shooters gave them hope of a two-point deficit, the Warriors found themselves down eight with 1:25 remaining.
Faried had his first impressive performance of the postseason. He scored 13 points on 5-of-8 shooting, grabbed 10 rebounds and finished a clutch alley-oop off a beautiful pass from Andre Miller.
Harrison Barnes continued his streak of strong games. Barnes was only 7-of-17, and experienced unexpected difficulties finishing around the rim, but made 5-of-10 attempts from behind the arc, a shooting performance that kept the Warriors within striking distance in the first half, and helped them close the gap in the second.
Iguodala did his best LeBron James impersonation, carrying the Nuggets to victory with efficient scoring, lockdown defense, and creative passing. Iguodala scored 25 points on 10-of-17 shooting, recorded seven assists and 12 rebounds. Ultimately, he controlled the Nuggets’ offense through its best stretches of the game.