Nuggets go big, but too much Stephen Curry has Warriors winning Game 5, advancing
In the end, there was too much Stephen Curry, too many Warriors guards for the Nuggets to handle.
You knew Steve Kerr was serious about closing out this first round series at home when he started his best five — a three-guard lineup with Curry, Klay Thompson, Jordan Poole, with Andrew Wiggins at the four and Draymond Green at center.
Credit the Nuggets, who did in this game what they had done all season long: Adjust and fight hard. In this case, the Nuggets counter was simple and perfect: Go big and punish them inside. Denver scored more than half its points in the paint, and DeMarcus Cousins was a big part of that off the bench scoring 19.
It almost worked.
To open the game, the Warriors couldn’t score inside against that size. Golden State shot 10-of-23 in the paint in the first half, and Green was 1-of-5. The game was tied at the half, and to open the third quarter the Nuggets pushed their lead up to double digits.
But in the end there was too much Stephen Curry, despite the size of Aaron Gordon guarding him late in the game.
Curry scored 11 of his 30 points in the fourth quarter — not by hitting deep threes but by getting to the rim. Curry put the Nuggets to sleep.
The Warriors held off a late Nuggets charge to get the 102-98 win and advance to the second round. The Warriors will face the winner of the Grizzlies/Timberwolves series (Memphis leads that 3-2).
Curry got a lot of help from Gary Payton II who changed the tide off the bench and scored 15 points, hitting 3-of-4 from beyond the arc and playing great defense. Thompson had 15 as well and Green had 11.
Nikola Jokic was brilliant for the Nuggets, finishing with 30 points, 19 rebounds, and eight assists. His passing was sublime and his touch around the rim was on display when he scored 12 points in the fourth.
Jokic is up for a contract extension this summer and is eligible for the super-max — he will get the largest contract in NBA history. Denver has to look at this roster and the way they played this season, imagine it with their second and third best players healthy — Jamal Murray missed the entire season and Michael Porter Jr. basically did — and think they are title contenders. The Nuggets can tinker on the edges, but they just need to run it back and stay healthy to be in the mix a year from now.
This year, the Warriors are in the mix — and they are moving on to the second round of the playoffs.