DENVER -- The Warriors trailed the Nuggets by 20 at the half, then cut the lead down to five points late in the fourth quarter, but couldn't complete the comeback in a Game 5 loss that sends the series back to Oakland.
Cut and dried, almost from the opening tip. Denver first smoked and then outlasted Golden State, 107-100, going hard to the basket repeatedly rather than settling for jump shots, shortening the rotation and pressing harder on Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson. The Nuggets controlled the game earlier and then alternated between dominating and playing even the rest of the night. The Warriors shot a paltry 43.8 percent as team, their worst of the series, and Curry was 7-for-19 by himself.
Whether Curry’s night was caused by his accumulation of aches or just Denver’s greater emphasis on attacking him defensively is an eye-of-the-beholder argument, but Golden State fell behind by double digits in the first quarter and only closed late, after it was too late. Game 6 could not come soon enough for them. Or, frankly, for the Denvers, who need to regain the upper hand in Oakland Thursday night.
Curry, who is collecting fresh injuries with each new game, struggled to find his pace, range and general Curry-hood. He was guarded by Andre Iguodala and Ty Lawson most often, with a soupcon of Julyan Stone in the fourth quarter, but also was less intrepid offensively on his own, perhaps because of the ankle, hamstring, buttock and Lord knows what else. The Nuggets put bodies on him whenever possible, and his 3-for-9 first-half shooting was emblematic of the Warriors’ general eye.
Andrew Bogut was met big for bigs by the Nuggets, who threw Kenneth Faried, JaVale McGee and Kosta Koufas at him not in tandem but together. His frustration/enforcer role caused him at one point to shove Faried from behind, in response to a Faried knock on Curry. The series has now advanced, somewhat belatedly, to the kind of mutual dislike most good series develop, and Game 6 should deliver more of the same. As for Bogut, he didn’t play at all in the second half.
Due to the early start and typical rush-hour traffic, the Pepsi Center was barely half-full at the tipoff. It filled midway through the second quarter though, just in time for the Nuggets’ bandwagon to refill.
THE END COMES EARLY
Denver started quickly, as it has in other first quarters in this series, but for a change did not take the foot off the floorboard. Defensively, they held the Warriors in a firm defensive grip except for Harrison Barnes, and took a 29-17 first-half rebounding lead while coaxing 10 first-half turnovers from the sluggish guests. It never got much better, which is why this series moves on to Game 6 in Oakland Thursday night.