Warriors rally, take series lead
Playing on a sprained left ankle, Stephen Curry has the Golden State Warriors on firm footing in the playoffs.
Curry overcame his latest ankle injury to score 29 points, and the Warriors outlasted the Denver Nuggets 110-108 on Friday night to take a 2-1 series lead.
Curry also had 11 assists, Jarrett Jack added 23 points and seven assists, and Harrison Barnes and Carl Landry each scored 19 points to help the Warriors rally from 13 points down in the third quarter. Golden State still had to sweat out Andre Iguodala's missed 3-pointer as the buzzer sounded, setting off a gold-confetti celebration throughout the announced sellout crowd of 19,596.
''Feels good. Just thankful to be able to get through the game without any incidents,'' Curry said.
Ty Lawson had a career playoff-high 35 points to go with 10 assists, and reserve Corey Brewer scored 16 points as Denver dropped its second straight game - and its grip on the best-of-seven series.
Game 4 is Sunday night in Oakland.
''There was a lot of good tonight,'' Nuggets coach George Karl said. ''I told the team after the game, `The process of the NBA playoffs is to get better. We got better tonight. We didn't win tonight. But there's a process going on, and it's just two wins. They're only halfway there.'''
The teams traded spectacular shots for most of the game, especially in the closing moments.
Curry crossed over Kenneth Faried, then dropped in a high-arching lefty floater. Curry added another on the next possession - only with his right hand, and this time hitting almost all net to keep the Warriors up four.
Faried, who finished with 15 points and seven rebounds, followed with a reverse layup. A few plays later, Curry stole the ball from Andre Miller from behind and then nearly dropped in another floater as Wilson Chandler fouled him. Curry's free throws gave Golden State a 108-102 lead with 1:54 remaining.
After Denver called timeout, Lawson's layup over Draymond Green started a three-point play. Denver got a stop before Lawson's 3-pointer hit the front iron and Curry corralled the rebound - but then missed a layup on the other end.
Twice given a chance to either tie or take the lead, Denver blew both.
Iguodala got caught in the air trying to make a pass, Jack batted it away and hit 1 of 2 free throws for a 109-105 lead with 21.5 seconds to play. Chandler stunned the crowd with a quick 3 from the corner, the Nuggets covered Curry on the ensuing inbound and Jack was called for a rare 5-second violation.
Klay Thompson and backup center Festus Ezeli trapped Lawson off a pick-and-roll, and Lawson dribbled the ball off his leg and out of bounds under heavy pressure. Officials confirmed the call with a video review.
After Barnes made just the second free throw, Denver inbounded the ball to Iguodala. He took a few dribbles and heaved a shot from around half-court, hitting the front iron and letting the home fans exhale.
The Warriors outshot the Nuggets 52.5 to 46.5 percent and won the rebounding battle for the third straight game, 42-34.
Golden State followed its 64.6 percent shooting performance - the highest in an NBA playoff game in 22 years - during its 131-117 win at Denver on Tuesday night with another gem befitting the Bay Area's basketball party.
Ushers and parking lot attendants greeted fans with ''welcome to the playoffs.'' Almost every fan wore a gold shirt read ''We are Warriors'' on the front, and the 33rd straight sellout that packed Oracle Arena often yelled so loud even players had a hard time hearing whistles.
''I've never seen anything like it,'' Jack said.
Curry, who wore a large white brace around both ankles, made 8 of 17 shots and often provided reason to cheer in his first home playoff game. Warriors coach Mark Jackson said he didn't know if Curry had taken, or would take, a pain-killing injection as the guard suggested he might for the first time in his career.
Jackson stuck with his smaller lineup for the second straight game since David Lee went down with a season-ending tear of his right hip flexor. Guards Curry, Jack and Thompson started alongside small forward Barnes and center Andrew Bogut, who had nine rebounds and six points and was a constant paint presence.
Karl countered with an even smaller lineup for Game 3: forward Faried started at center in place of struggling big man Kosta Koufos, Chandler was at power forward, Iguodala at small forward, Evan Fournier at shooting guard and Lawson at point guard.
The athletic Nuggets constantly swarmed Curry and Jack - or whoever dribbled off pick-and-rolls - with double teams as soon as they crossed midcourt, forcing Golden State into 23 total turnovers. Even with all the aggressiveness from both sides, the defensive nuances never slowed the frenetic and flamboyant pace.
Every time Curry lined up to shoot, the crowd's collective inhale could be heard. The silence was usually followed by a remarkable roar - and until the final quarter and a half, often by another avalanche of Denver offense.
After going down by 13 points early in the third quarter, the Warriors answered with a 16-2 run capped by Curry's 3-pointer near Denver's bench. The shot gave Golden State a 74-73 lead and sent owners Joe Lacob and Peter Guber jumping out of their courtside seats, screaming, clapping and motioning to the stands to shout even louder.
The Warriors outscored the Nuggets 33-18 in the third quarter.
NOTES: Bogut was called for a technical foul in the third quarter after a verbal exchange with Denver's JaVale McGee. ... McGee grabbed his right shoulder when he was fouled in the first quarter. He grimaced in pain but stayed in the game after a timeout. He had four points and one rebound. ... Lee was in a suit and often engaged in the huddle.