DENVER -- The same formula that worked for the Denver Nuggets in the first game of their series with the Warriors allowed them to extend it to a sixth: Give the ball to an Andre guarded by a Warriors point guard in foul trouble.
In the first game, the Nuggets -- feeding off early aggression -- took a seven-point lead into the fourth quarter. Andre Miller then kept the hard-charging Warriors at bay with 18 fourth-quarter points against Jarrett Jack, who guarded him for most of the last four minutes and 41 seconds with five fouls. Miller finished with 28 and the Nuggets left with a 1-0 series lead.
After losing three in a row, they returned to that formula Tuesday night at the Pepsi Center. The Nuggets took an even healthier lead in the final 12 minutes and then repeatedly posted up Andre Iguodala on Steph Curry, who played the final 5:19 with five fouls. Coach Mark Jackson resorted to playing Curry on offense and substituting in Draymond Green on defense when he could, then double-teaming Iguodala when he couldn’t. Iguodala, unlike Miller, didn’t do all the damage himself, but the double teams created enough openings and trips to the foul line to preserve the 107-100 win.
[RECAP: Nuggets 107, Warriors 100]
“There were some calls that were kind of tough,” said Curry. “You want to force him to make his catches farther out from the basket, but I wasn’t sure how physical I could be. We don’t play that style at the other end, so you don’t know if you’d get the same call.”
Nuggets coach George Karl did alter his starting formula, going with his biggest lineup of the series with both JaVale McGee and Kenneth Faried in it. With his halfcourt offense stagnant, Karl kept trying to add speed to his first five to kick-start his transition attack. He finally abandoned that and went for dominating the halfcourt and it worked. Denver won despite scoring its fewest fastbreak points of the series (9), thanks to 15 offensive rebounds for 20 second-chance points. The Nuggets had four players with two or more offensive rebounds, led by McGee with five.
A half-empty Pepsi Center to start the game also seemed to throw off the Warriors more than the Nuggets. “That was weird,” said Klay Thompson. “That’s the quietest I’ve ever seen an arena. But then it quickly got filled and they got going.”
The Warriors won’t have that issue at Oracle Arena for Game 6 on Thursday and Thompson said they have an answer for the bigger lineup as well.
“If they go big, then they have to guard us on the perimeter,” he said. “The bottom line is we’re a talented team, but we’re not talented enough to play one half. The first half was inexcusable.”