Colorado sports fans now have a new rival: the Golden State Warriors.
Yes, put the Warriors name up on the “Colorado’s Most Hated Rivals” board right next to the Oakland Raiders, the Detroit Red Wings and the Los Angeles Dodgers.
After watching the first five games of this first-round playoff series between the Nuggets and the Warriors, I have found a hatred for Golden State I never knew I had.
Going into this playoff series, I had the feeling that these two young, fast-paced teams would provide us all with an intense playoff series. What I didn’t see coming is that the Nuggets would have to eke out a three-games-to-one deficit to advance to the next round of the playoffs. The Warriors have done a great job of deflating the Nuggets’ regular-season confidence with their three straight wins.
On Tuesday evening, the Nuggets finally acted like the Nuggets, and outlasted the Warriors 107-100 to bring the series to 3-2, with the Warriors still in the driver’s seat on the series. It was a win Denver should have had by 25 points, instead of seven, but a win is a win and they are still alive.
Denver must go into Golden State’s Oracle Arena on Thursday and win once again to force a game seven in Denver. The odds aren’t in Denver’s favor. Only eight teams in NBA playoff history have come back to win a series after trailing 3-1.
I will give Golden State the credit it’s due. At times they have outrun and out paced the Nuggets in the series – it’s something the Nuggets aren’t used to. They have played better defense. The Warriors have done a good job, until Tuesday, at shutting down Denver’s bigs.
Most importantly, the Warriors haven’t missed shots.
In Golden State’s three straight wins, Steph Curry simply could not miss. Every time he shot the ball, mostly three’s, they went in without hitting the rim. He’s proving himself as one of the NBA’s elite shooters right now and, unfortunately, it’s all happening against the Nuggets. In game 4, Curry scored 23 of his 31 points in the third quarter alone. The man is good, but it doesn’t mean I have to like him or any of the other Warriors, for that matter.
My hatred for Curry began in game three where I found myself in a dungeon-like sports bar hoping the Nuggets could steal a win on the road.
It was sometime in the third quarter when the guy on the barstool next to me – he was wearing a Rockies hat – turned and began a long-winded conversation about how he had recently met Steph Curry and that Curry is just “the nicest guy [he’d] ever met.” He went on and on about how Curry, unlike most pro players, really “keeps himself grounded” despite his stardom. I had to listen to this d-bag at the same time Curry was just lighting up the Nuggets from three-point land.
It was a frustrating night. I didn’t like the guy sitting next to me. And I was beginning to really hate Steph Curry. The guy is good, and he is killing the Nuggets.
Denver’s must-win on Tuesday night will be known as the game that marked the beginning of a new era of Denver-Golden State rivalry. Up until Tuesday, it was two young teams from the Western Conference going at it. After Tuesday, they were bitter rivals.
Following the game, Golden State coach Mark Jackson called out the Nuggets for sending a squad onto the court to take out Curry.
“They tried to send hit men at Steph,” Jackson said in his postgame news conference, as reported on ESPN.com. “There were some dirty plays early. It's playoff basketball. It's all right. Make no mistake, we were up 3-1 [in the series], playing hard, clean, physical basketball, not trying to hurt anybody.”
Jackson, who I once admired, took it a step further and suggested that the Nuggets’ Kenneth Faried “took a shot” at Curry’s sore ankle.
“That can’t be debated,” Jackson said.
Now, I don’t remember seeing that specific play where Faried supposedly tried to take out Curry’s ankle. It may have happened, but I didn’t witness it. I’m pretty sure the refs didn’t see it either.
Undoubtedly, it was George Karl’s game plan to rough Curry up, and often. The Nuggets simply can’t let Curry shoot at will. The game plan on Tuesday worked. Curry scored only 15 points and was left to argue with a fan as he exited the court.
And while Jackson said it’s the Nuggets who are playing dirty basketball, it’s really the Warriors who have been playing dirty. And yes, the refs saw this in action on Tuesday. Both Andrew Bogut, who is a whiny drama queen, and Draymond Green were given flagrant fouls on Tuesday. Bogut hacked Faried in the throat, and then Green hit Faried below the basket as if he was a middle linebacker.
If Jackson wants to talk about dirty basketball, he should bring it up in his own locker room. Green and Bogut have been playing dirty basketball this entire series.
“We're not dirty at all,” Nuggets guard Ty Lawson told The Denver Post. “If you watch the first games, you see (Andrew) Bogut chucking people, Festus (Ezeli) hitting me for no reason. It's not dirty. We're just trying to even it out. We weren't trying to go after Curry – if he's coming through the lane, just make sure he doesn't get down there easily. If I get through the lane, I'm getting hit three, four times, illegal (hits) and everything. I'm not complaining. It's the game of basketball. You've got to man up.”
If Tuesday’s rough-and-tumble Nuggets win didn’t set the stage for an intense game six in Oakland, the verbal jabs following the game certainly will. Yes, Denver has a new rivalry at hand. I’m not going to say that I hate Golden State as much as the Raiders, but anything is possible.
I hope the Nuggets hack the hell out of Curry on Thursday.