DENVER, Colorado: The Denver Nuggets kept their NBA playoff hopes alive but touched off a controversy over dirty tactics Tuesday while the Memphis Grizzlies moved one victory shy of reaching the second round.
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.