It was always going to take a return to an ultra physical and athletics style of basketball for the Denver Nuggets to ensure they find themselves back in the series. Facing elimination, at home, they simply went to work on Stephen Curry from the get go, while Andre Iguodala, along with an improving Kenneth Faried, put on their best performance of the postseason so far to live and fight another day.
Mark Jackson hasn’t been winning himself too many fans over the last few days. First comes his read-between-the-lines criticism of Jason Collins announcing he’s gay, followed by not being able to cope with losing in game 5, so he took it out on the refs, Nuggets and what not, claiming they played dirty basketball in order to keep Stephen Curry from going off on them again.
Some dirty plays early. 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, but not trying to hurt anybody. Faried did his job, setting 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. As an opposing coach, I see it, and I’m trying to protect my guys.
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.
When Mark Jackson ordered his players a few months ago to foul the Houston Rockets at any cost, and foul them hard, so they won’t break the three point record on their heads, it was fine. When it’s against his own players, it’s suddenly a crime against humanity.
The Nuggets won 107-100 by returning to the style of basketball that helped them win the third seed in the West. Andre Iguodala was all over the place with 25 points, 12 rebounds and 7 assists, including hitting the big basket every time his team needed one from him. The Nuggets did drop a 22 point lead, but had enough of Iguodala, Faried and one big three pointer from Wilson Chandler (19 points, 5-11 from beyond the arc) in order to keep the series alive, coming back to 2-3 and sending us to a game 6 in Oakland.
If you can attribute their success to one thing, it’s dominating the paint once again. Iguodala kept on pushing inside instead of settling for jumpers and floaters which aren’t his strong suit anyway. The Nuggets outscored the Warriors 50 to 24 in the paint, the largest paint differential in any game in the 2013 playoffs. It was back to basics for them after outscoring opponents by 17.4 points per game in paint scoring.
Then there was the defense, or at least the successful part of it early on. They hit Curry with everything they got, and the player who looked like the most impressive in the playoffs up to that point hit his first and only three pointer of the game midway through the fourth quarter. Maybe the theory of blocking and hitting Curry early on pays off, as he kept missing open looks, along with Klay Thompson and Jarrett Jack, as the three combined for 21-52 from the field.
It’s going to be different in Game 6, no doubt. The Warriors are much more aggressive at home, and Andre Bogut should be much more of a factor on both ends of the floor after scoring only two points in 18 minutes. JaVale McGee in the lineup is something that should have happened a long time ago, but George Karl hasn’t been at his best in this series. McGee finished with 10 points, 8 rebounds and 3 blocks in 20 minutes, and finding his way back to a balanced lineup is the best news the Denver head coach could have had.
The Warriors will be favorites to take the series out at home, winning their previous two games, but from the looks of things – with Faried feeling a lot better and finally finding a center he can trust, the Denver Nuggets are not going down quietly.