May 1, 2013
DENVER — Kenneth Faried put his foot down 48 hours after putting his size-16 sneaker through the wall in the visiting locker room in Oakland, sparking a debate about dirty play.
The fiery forward energized the Denver Nuggets, who rediscovered their toughness in time to stave off elimination Tuesday night with a 107-100 win over the Golden State Warriors.
The Nuggets never trailed, piled up points in the paint, slowed down the Warriors' guards, jumpstarted their transition game and got under Andew Bogut's skin.
They jumped out to a 22-point lead before weathering the Warriors' frenetic fourth quarter rally to cut their series deficit to 3-2 and force a Game 6 Thursday night at Oracle Arena.
Warriors coach Mark Jackson accused the Nuggets of trying to hurt Stephen Curry, his banged-up sharpshooter who was just 1 for 7 from long-range and finished with a series-low 15 points.
"Some dirty plays early," Jackson said. "It's playoff basketball, that's all right. We own it. But make no mistake about it, we went up 3-1 playing hard, physical, clean basketball — not trying to hurt anybody."
Jackson mentioned Faried setting some "great screens and some great illegal ones, too."
"He did his job. Hey, I played with guys like that. They get paid to do that. Dale Davis, Anthony Davis, Charles Oakley. You get paid to do it. So give them credit," Jackson said. "As an opposing coach, I see it, and I'm trying to protect my guys."
Jackson complained about one screen in particular on Curry being "a shot at his ankle, clearly. That can't be debated." He added, "I got inside information that some people don't like that brand of basketball and they clearly didn't co-sign it. They wanted to let me know they have no parts in what was taking place. Let the best team win. And let everybody with the exception of going down with a freak injury, let everybody leave out of here healthy. That's not good basketball."
"It's basketball," countered Faried. "I try to do the little things my team needs me to do. It's physical. If you can't stand the physicality, you shouldn't be playing."
Asked about accusations he tried to hurt Curry, Faried said: "That's intriguing because I think they were purposefully trying to hurt me every play I went for a rebound — the hits, the grab to the throat."
Curry said there were a few plays that went overboard.
"There were a couple, man. Going through the paint minding my own business and they come out of nowhere trying to throw elbows," he said. "I got a (target) on me, I don't know what it is, just got to keep playing and do your thing."
The Nuggets said they were surprised the Warriors were the ones complaining about physical play.
"I think I've taken the hardest hit in the series, Game 1 or 2, when Bogut leaned in to me on a screen. And I didn't remember what happened the rest of the game," Andre Iguodala said. "I think they kind of brought the physicality to the series. And we stopped being the receivers and we're starting to hit back a little bit. But as far as anybody trying to cheap shot, I don't condone that myself. It's not my game."
Faried said he's been beat up all series long.
"I'm surprised tonight I didn't get my hair pulled like before," Faried said. "It's all good. If we're playing dirty, hey, it's basketball. We're just playing physical."
Said Bogut: "It's the series, it's physical, whether they're taking cheap shots or not we need to match that physicality."
Klay Thompson said "a couple of them could have been cheap shots. I thought Steph got cheat shot one time, he got a bloody nose. It's not acceptable, but we've got to match that. We can't let it get in our heads, just do what we did in the second half."
Iguodala had 25 points and 12 rebounds, Ty Lawson had 19 points and 10 assists and Faried had 13 points and 10 boards. Harrison Barnes led Golden State with 23 points and nine rebounds.
Curry, whose 18 3-pointers were the most by any player in NBA history in the first four playoff games of his career, went ice cold, missing his first five 3-pointers before finally hitting with 5:09 left to pull Golden State to 96-91.
Faried responded to Curry's sole 3-pointer with an alley-oop dunk.
Curry and Thompson missed back-to-back 3s that would have made it a two-point game with less than two minutes left, and Wilson Chandler's 3 seconds later at the other end made it 103-95. Chandler finished with 19 points.
"You've got to like the way we finished the game," Curry said, "and we've got to bottle that up for the next game because if have a feeling it's going to be the same kind of atmosphere."
Faried capped his night with an alley-oop dunk from Andre Miller before fouling out.
The Warriors never got closer than five points after Denver's first-half blitz led by Faried, who had seven points, eight boards and a big block as the Nuggets raced out to a 66-46 halftime lead by finally playing their brand of basketball.
After Denver lost three straight games, coach George Karl had pinned his hopes on a return to the Pepsi Center, where the Nuggets haven't lost back-to-back games since Feb. 8-9, 2012.
The crowd had plenty to cheer about, but it was Faried who really brought the buzz back.
It was 44-31 when Bogut gave a two-handed shove to Faried's neck, sending him falling out of bounds underneath the basket — shortly after Faried's hard screen on Curry. Bogut was whistled for a flagrant-1 foul and Faried made one of two free throws before Miller's subsequent layup.
In the second half, rookie Draymond Green was whistled for a flagrant foul after body-checking Faried.
"Draymond Green, did he play football or basketball at Michigan State," cracked Karl.
Notes: Bogut finished with two points and five rebounds in 18 minutes, his worst showing of the series. ... The Warriors are 6-19 without All-Star David Lee over the last three years but 3-1 in the playoffs minus the league's leader this season in double-doubles. ... Faried, who was raised by lesbian mothers and was an outspoken advocate for Colorado's civil unions bill this year, said he was thrilled to hear Jason Collins revelation that he's gay.
Arnie Melendrez Stapleton can be reached at: www.twitter.com/arniestapleton