"On March 7th Mark Jackson was asked a question, 'How do you cover Stephen Curry?' And I think the answer was you gotta rough him up a little bit," said Nuggets coach George Karl. "I don't want to rough him up, I just want to make him uncomfortable. I want him to feel that he's our number one priority. He's not the only guy - they got big guys we got to be physical with inside and control the paint."
It was more than a little odd to hear Mark Jackson, he of the 1990's New York Knicks - yes, that's Jackson in the background after Jordan gets mugged in the first highlight - complain about hard fouls last night (for various reasons ... his Warriors team receiving two flagrant fouls in Game 5 being the biggest).
"I know Mark [Jackson]. Mark was a physical player," said Karl. "Did you watch the Clipper and Memphis game? Wow, that's a physical game; that's something that's really fun to watch."
Karl tried to downplay the physical side of this series, but there has been some physical play and it's good to see.
"We learned not to back down from the physicality," said Faried. "They're being physical, we're being physical, we're just pushing and shoving; it's a playoff series."
Faried even talked about the play that Jackson highlighted in his post-game comments - where it was said Faried was going after Curry's ankles.
"I thought they were mad about the shoulder," said Faried. "I wasn't even thinking about his ankle, honestly, I forgot it was injured - I'm so worried about my own. He walked through and I was giving him a bump."
We are left to wonder what would have gone down if the Nuggets had stepped up to the physical challenge sooner. Denver's Game 5 play seemed to take the Warriors by surprise and even throw them off their game a bit - as noted by Jeff Morton here. It was Faried taking the blame for the Nuggets not challenging the Warriors physically sooner.
"That started with me," said Faried. "I'm that energy guy, that hustle guy. I'm always banging. This series I kind of [have been] backing away because the injury. I was nervous to play on my ankle and see how it reacted. First game I really got pushed around. Second game I got pushed around more. Third game I got fed up, I was like, 'Yo, I either got to man up or don't play.' I'm tired of it and I'm manning up."
The Nuggets will really have to man-up if they expect to pull out a win in Game 6. Traveling to Oakland has not been kind to Denver in the post-season. They lost a double-digit second half lead in Game 3 and missed an opportunity to take a late lead with nine seconds left and Ty Lawson dribbling the ball out of bounds. And Game 4 saw the Warriors run the Nuggets off the floor. But Game 5 saw Denver regain their brand of basketball.
"We're confident," said Faried. "We just got to play on the road. Everybody knows what's coming. We know what we can do and can't do against them. We know we can do a lot more than we can't."
"On the road it's going to be a little bit harder," said Karl. "Finding offensive answers is probably going to be a little harder. Sustaining our defense is the number one thing for me. I don't think we can win this series unless we get better defensively."
It's going to be tough defensively with Andre Miller on the floor late in games. He was a -14 in the second half of Game 5 and the Warriors have been tried exploiting his defense on Tuesday night, but never could capitalize on the match-up as Denver hid Miller on Draymond Green and other players late. Karl didn't give in and allow Miller to cover Curry - as he did in Game 4.
With the Warriors crowd being one of the best in the league (Portland and Oklahoma City are in the mix from what I've been told) I've thought it would be key for Denver to survive any early runs by the home team.
"We've had good starts out there," said Karl. "It's the momentum and the end of second quarter has been bad. And in the third quarter, Curry seems to find a rhythm and jump into the game. I think we're aware of that. There could be some tactical changes. I thought [Andre Iguodala] on [Jarrett] Jack was good, but I think A.I. on Curry might have to be in the playbook too."
Iguodala took the task of covering Jack for much of Game 5 - a smart move as it was Jack's dribble penetration that was allowing him to get to the positions on the floor where he likes to shoot the ball and distribute too. Karl used Lawson to cover Curry for large portions of the game and it paid off, as it did in the regular season too. Not allowing Curry to find the space he needs clearly took him out of his comfort zone in Denver. A couple wild shots also showed that Curry was doing all he could to try to force himself into the game.
The biggest change from Game 5 to the games in Oakland was Karl changing up his starting lineup, for the third time in the series. Going back to playing big punished the Warriors and gave the Nuggets, pardon the pun, a huge advantage.
"I think that's the big thing about starting JaVale," said Karl. "He [got] that excitement into the game. Kenneth had that in Game 4 too. He just wears people out with his energy and his hustle going to the boards."
It was more than the energy though. JaVale is just too quick, too long, and too athletic for Bogut. To borrow a line from Bill Simmons, it looked like Bogut took a shower in concrete before the game. Bogut wasn't able to block any of McGee's early shots and having McGee and Faried on the offensive glass just wore on the Warriors.
I also thought the change in the lineup benefited Wilson Chandler. He scored 16 first half points and seemed to really have his legs under him as he was 4-8 from three-point land in the first half (5-11 on the night). The second half he scored just 3 points (19 points total) and wasn't nearly the factor he was to start the game. In fact, the three pointer he hit in the closing minutes was the only make he had in the second half (1-5 shooting in the second half).
What did Karl think of Chandler moving back to small forward?
"I thought it worked out," said Karl. "But they play so small that it's going to be so difficult to play him there; unless they give me a match-up I feel comfortable with. It worked out, as long as [Andrew] Bogut's on the court I'm comfortable with him playing [small forward]."
I thought it was Karl who dictated the game was going to be played in the first quarter and it resulted in a 36-22 lead. It seemed like Karl struck gold with his lineups in the first half and really took control of the game. For some reason the small-ball unit in the third and fourth quarters showed up and that's when the Warriors got back into it.
Hopefully Karl will realize that the way he was calling the game in the first half is the way to go on Thursday night.
Big game coming.
Kenneth Faried on his Citizenship award and being called dirty the day before:
"I'm a good dirty citizen," said Faried. "I think that's what the trophy is - yep - it's a little dirty so I think that's what it is."
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