Nuggets hold off Warriors; Grizzlies beat Clippers
Nuggets hold off Warriors; Grizzlies beat Clippers
Andre Iguodala scored 25 points and grabbed 12 rebounds as Denver downed Golden State 107-100, but Warriors coach Mark Jackson accused the Nuggets of deliberately trying to injure Warriors star Stephen Curry to raise tensions.
“They tried to send hitmen on Steph,” Jackson said. “There were some dirty plays early.
The Nuggets pulled within 3-2 of the Warriors in the best-of-seven playoff series, which continues Thursday at Golden State. The series winner will face West top seed San Antonio in the second round of the playoffs.
“Tonight was a good fight for us,” Iguodala said. “We’ve got to go back there and figure some things out.”
In Tuesday’s other Western Conference game, Zach Randolph scored 25 points and added 11 rebounds while Spaniard Marc Gasol had 21 points as the Grizzlies beat the Los Angeles Clippers 103-93 to take a 3-2 lead in their series.
Clippers playmaker Blake Griffin left the game in the third quarter with a high right ankle sprain, leaving his status in doubt for game six Friday at Memphis.
“We can’t celebrate,” Randolph said. “We can’t get too happy. We’re not done. We have to go home Friday and be ready and be real focused.”
At Denver, Wilson Chandler and Ty Lawson added 19 points each for the Nuggets, who had six double-digit scorers, while Harrison Barnes led the Warriors with 23 points, Jarrett Jack added 20 and Klay Thompson netted 19.
“They were the more physical team. They were the aggressor,” Jackson said. “They hurt us in the first half. They scored in the paint. They made us pay for our turnovers. It wasn’t magic. They outplayed us.”
Curry scored only 15 points on 7-of-19 shooting. Jackson said a screen set at the free throw line in the first half was a bid to hurt Curry’s ankle.
Jackson also hinted that someone in the Nuggets’ camp was telling him there was an intent to injure.
“I’ve got inside information,” Jackson said. “Some people don’t like that kind of basketball.
“We went up 3-1 (in the series) playing hard, physical, clean basketball — not trying to hurt anybody.” Iguodala said he felt he took the hardest hit in the series earlier when Australian center Andrew Bogut ran into him and added that the Warriors started the bumping in the series.
“They kind of brought the physicality to the series and we stopped being the receivers and started bringing some of that back,” Iguodala said. “But as for the cheap shots, I don’t condone that. That’s not in my game.” Asked about the fouls, Golden State’s Jack said only, “It felt like good defense. We’re a battle-tested bunch. Nothing can get us out of our rhythm.”
The Nuggets led by as much as 22 points in the second quarter on the way to a 66-46 half-time lead. The Warriors unleashed a 14-2 run in the third quarter but Denver answered with a 12-4 run to lead 86-69 entering the fourth quarter.
Undaunted, Golden State responded in the final period with an 18-4 spurt that pulled the Warriors within 96-91 before Kenneth Faried’s slam dunk ended a drought of 4:20 without a basket from the field for the Nuggets.
Twice more the Warriors pulled within five points only to have Chandler connect on a 3-pointer from the right corner to give Denver a 103-95 lead.
After a Golden State free throw, Iguodala added a slam dunk and Denver held off the Warriors over the final seconds.
“We knew we were going to take a hit,” Iguodala said. “We had to respond once they made their run. Tonight was a better defensive effort. To get to the next level our defensive mindset had to get better. It was there tonight.”
At Los Angeles, Clippers star Chris Paul matched a career playoff high 35 points in a losing cause.
Memphis closed the second quarter with a 16-5 run for a 54-48 half-time edge.
An 11-0 Memphis run early in the third quarter produced the Grizzlies’ biggest lead of the game at 65-52 lead before the Clippers pulled within 73-65 entering the fourth quarter.
The Clippers pulled within 91-86 late but Tayshaun Prince answered with a 3-pointer for Memphis and Los Angeles never came within six points again.
Randolph scored 10 points in the fourth quarter while Gasol added eight.
Chelsea face Manchester United in FA Cup final as Olivier Giroud sinks Southampton
London: Chelsea booked an FA Cup final showdown with Manchester United as Olivier Giroud tormented Southampton again with a sublime strike in Sunday’s 2-0 win at Wembley.
Giroud has made a habit of scoring against Southampton and the France forward was their nemesis in a one-sided semifinal.
Opting to select Giroud instead of Alvaro Morata proved a shrewd move by Chelsea manager Antonio Conte as the former Arsenal star produced a tremendous piece of skill to break the deadlock early in the second half.
Giroud has feasted on Southampton this season, scoring twice to spark Chelsea’s 3-2 win last weekend and also netting a late equalizer against them for Arsenal in December.
His fourth goal for Chelsea since his January signing was followed by a late header from substitute Morata, setting up a heavyweight final against United at Wembley on May 19.
That will be Chelsea’s last chance to win major silverware at the end of a troubled season.
“The most important thing is to reach the final. This is the second FA Cup final in a row for us. I’m delighted for our fans,” Conte said.
“For sure, Olivier has been a good signing for us. I needed a player like him, strong physically, to hold the ball up.
“Today I decided to start with Olivier because I knew we were playing against three strong central defenders, but when Morata came on the impact was impressive as well.”
Chelsea’s 13th FA Cup final appearance will be a repeat of the 2007 showpiece, when Jose Mourinho’s men won 1-0.
The Blues, back in the final after losing to Arsenal in May, last won the competition in 2012 and are bidding to lift the trophy for the eighth time.
Winning the FA Cup might not be enough to convince either Conte or Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich that their two-year partnership should be extended.
Conte has spent much of the season complaining about Chelsea’s failure to back his transfer plans, while several of his players are believed to be unhappy with his demanding training sessions and intense personality.
The Blues face a tough task to qualify for the Champions League via a top-four finish in the Premier League as they trail fourth-placed Tottenham by five points.
Against that backdrop, winning the Cup would at least provide an uplifting conclusion to a frustrating campaign.
For Southampton, the focus returns to their desperate battle to avoid relegation, with just four games left to climb out of the bottom three.
Saints boss Mark Hughes claimed the crucial moment was the officials’ refusal to use the video assistant referee when Chelsea keeper Willy Caballero may have dropped the ball over the line under pressure from Charlie Austin.
“We are disappointed with the officials. Their goalkeeper has thrown the ball into the back of the net,” Hughes complained.
“If ever there was a case for VAR to review, that was the moment. Why it wasn’t referred I’ve no idea.”
Giroud was warming to the task of giving Southampton another headache and he went close to breaking the deadlock with an acrobatic volley before half-time.
Chelsea’s dominance was finally rewarded in the 46th minute.
Cesc Fabregas lofted a pass toward Eden Hazard and he controlled brilliantly in mid-air before slipping the ball through to Giroud.
There was still work for Giroud to do and he side-stepped three defenders with surprising grace, his nimble footwork giving him just enough space to slot home from close range.
After Caballero got away with his sloppy handling, Austin appealed in vain for a penalty when Giroud left his arm out to block the forward’s header.
But it was too little, too late and Morata came off the bench to wrap up the win with just his third goal in his last 19 appearances.
Morata, who has failed to impress since his move from Real Madrid last year, was furious after being hauled off at Burnley.
Just days later, he was all smiles when he nodded home from Cesar Azpilicueta’s 82nd-minute cross.