DENVER (AP) — Kenneth Faried would like to punch a hole in Mark Jackson’s theory that he’s a dirty player who tried to hurt Stephen Curry.
“We were just playing physical,” Faried said after setting the tone in Denver’s 107-100 win over Golden State that sent the series back to Oakland for Game 6. “They say we were playing dirty, but we were just playing physical. We were hitting them like they were hitting us.
“They’ve been hitting me and pushing me and shoving me the whole series,” Faried said. “I’ve been hit in the throat, got my hair pulled a couple of times. And I don’t say much. I just keep going. I might say, ‘Yo, ref, what about this play or that play?’ and they don’t really say anything. But, hey, when we do it, we’re playing dirty.”
Faried put his foot down 48 hours after putting his size-16 sneaker through the wall in the visiting locker room in Oakland, sparking a debate about dirty play. The fiery forward energized the Nuggets, who rediscovered their toughness in time to stave off elimination Tuesday night.
The Nuggets never trailed, piled up points in the paint, slowed down the Warriors’ guards, jumpstarted their transition game and got under Andrew Bogut’s skin — basically, returning to the brand of basketball that helped them win an NBA franchise-best 57 games before a three-game skid in the playoffs put them on the brink of another early exit.
They jumped out to a 22-point lead before weathering the Warriors’ frenetic fourth-quarter rally to cut their series deficit to 3-2 and force Thursday night’s Game 6, where Faried and his teammates are sure to face the wrath of Golden State’s notoriously crazed crowd.
Jackson accused the Nuggets of trying to hurt Curry, his banged-up sharpshooter who was just 1 for 7 from long-range and finished with a series-low 15 points.
“Some dirty plays early,” Jackson said. “It’s playoff basketball, that’s all right. We own it. But make no mistake about it, we went up 3-1 playing hard, physical, clean basketball — not trying to hurt anybody.”
Jackson mentioned Faried setting some “great screens and some great illegal ones, too.”
“He did his job. Hey, I played with guys like that. They get paid to do that. Dale Davis, Anthony Davis, Charles Oakley. You get paid to do it. So give them credit,” Jackson said. “As an opposing coach, I see it, and I’m trying to protect my guys.”
Jackson complained about one screen in particular on Curry being “a shot at his ankle, clearly. That can’t be debated.” He added, “I got inside information that some people don’t like that brand of basketball and they clearly didn’t co-sign it. They wanted to let me know they have no parts in what was taking place. Let the best team win. And let everybody with the exception of going down with a freak injury, let everybody leave out of here healthy. That’s not good basketball.”
“It’s basketball,” countered Faried. “I try to do the little things my team needs me to do. It’s physical. If you can’t stand the physicality, you shouldn’t be playing.”
Asked about accusations he tried to hurt Curry, Faried said: “That’s intriguing because I think they were purposefully trying to hurt me every play I went for a rebound — the hits, the grab to the throat.”
Curry said there were a few plays that went overboard.
“There were a couple, man. Going through the paint minding my own business and they come out of nowhere trying to throw elbows,” he said. “I got a (target) on me, I don’t know what it is, just got to keep playing and do your thing.”
The Nuggets said they were surprised the Warriors were the ones complaining about physical play.
“I think I’ve taken the hardest hit in the series, Game 1 or 2, when Bogut leaned in to me on a screen. And I didn’t remember what happened the rest of the game,” Andre Iguodala said. “I think they kind of brought the physicality to the series. And we stopped being the receivers and we’re starting to hit back a little bit. But as far as anybody trying to cheap shot, I don’t condone that myself. It’s not my game.”
Klay Thompson said “a couple of them could have been cheap shots. I thought Steph got cheap shot one time, he got a bloody nose. It’s not acceptable, but we’ve got to match that. We can’t let it get in our heads, just do what we did in the second half.”
Nuggets coach George Karl went back to a big lineup, giving JaVale McGee his first career playoff start, and the big man responded with 10 points, eight rebounds and three blocks to go with Faried’s seven points, eight boards and one big block as the Nuggets raced out to a 66-46 halftime lead.
Iguodala had 25 points and 12 rebounds, Ty Lawson had 19 points and 10 assists and Faried had 13 points and 10 boards. Harrison Barnes led Golden State with 23 points and nine rebounds.
The Warriors never got closer than five points after Denver’s first-half blitz led by Faried.
Curry, whose 18 3-pointers were the most by any player in NBA history in the first four playoff games of his career, went ice cold, missing his first five 3-pointers before finally hitting with 5:09 left to pull Golden State to 96-91.
Faried responded to Curry’s sole 3-pointer with an alley-oop dunk.
Curry and Thompson missed back-to-back 3s that would have made it a two-point game with less than two minutes left, and Wilson Chandler’s 3 seconds later at the other end made it 103-95. Chandler finished with 19 points.
“You’ve got to like the way we finished the game,” Curry said, “and we’ve got to bottle that up for the next game because if have a feeling it’s going to be the same kind of atmosphere.”
Bogut gave a two-handed shove to Faried’s neck after his hard screen on Curry in the first half, drawing a flagrant-1 foul, and Draymond Green was whistled for a flagrant foul for body-checking Faried in the second half.
“Draymond Green, did he play football or basketball at Michigan State,” cracked Karl.
Notes: Bogut finished with two points and five rebounds in 18 minutes, his worst showing of the series. … The Nuggets haven’t lost back-to-back games since Feb. 8-9, 2012. … The Nuggets are 29-1 at home when Faried has a double-double. … The Nuggets have been down 3-2 nine times before and twice won Game 6, including last year against the Lakers. They’ve never won a series after trailing 3-2, however. … Denver’s only other wire-to-wire win this year was its regular season finale against Phoenix. … Nuggets F Danilo Gallinari underwent surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee and will later have another procedure to fix his ruptured ACL.
Arnie Melendrez Stapleton can be reached at: http://www.twitter.com/arniestapleton