Steph Curry eliminates Nuggets with clutch Game 5

What we learned as Steph, GP2 come up clutch as Dubs move on originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea

SAN FRANCISCO – Exhale. A win’s a win, no matter how stressful or ugly it might look at times.

That was the case Wednesday night with the Warriors outlasting the Denver Nuggets 102-98 in Game 5 of their first-round playoff series to advance to the Western Conference semifinals. The Warriors looked lost and a bit shook for much of the night, but dug deep and earned this celebration at Chase Center.

Steve Kerr brought Steph Curry back to the starting lineup, and the Warriors went small right away, also starting Jordan Poole, Klay Thompson, Andrew Wiggins and Draymond Green. The small-ball lineup had its pros and cons, which will be something to monitor as these playoffs go on.

The hero of the night, though, might have been Gary Payton II. He played 26 minutes off the bench, scored 15 points and added, three rebounds, three assists and two steals. Payton nailed a late 3-pointer to take the lead as well as another clutch tree in the final minutes, which was the final punch the Nuggets could handle.

After dominating the first two games of the series, the Nuggets made this series a true fight. The Warriors entered the fourth quarter down by eight points, were sick of taking too many shots to the chin and found their heavyweight champion DNA.

Here are three takeaways from the Warriors finishing their first-round series with the Nuggets, before squaring off with either the Memphis Grizzlies or Minnesota Timberwolves in the next round.

Steph The Starter

The four-game experiment of Curry taking a seat and being the scariest Sixth Man the game has ever seen came to an end Wednesday night in Game 5. Kevon Looney being the odd-man out was a bit of a surprise, but the ball was flowing at first and the small-ball lineup opened with four assists on their first four baskets. The Nuggets’ size advantage then was apparent and Kerr turned to Looney to replace Poole.

Curry scored a game-high 30 points in his return to the starting lineup, with 11 coming in the fourth quarter. He hit five 3-pointers, grabbed five rebounds, handed out five assists and added two steals.

It was his fellow sharpshooters who struggled a bit.

Thompson and Poole combined for 23 points, while going 8-for-23 from the field and 2-for-10 from deep.

Foul Issues Continue

Immediately after the Warriors’ loss Sunday in Denver, Kerr and a handful of Warriors made it clear their desire to foul early and at untimely parts throughout the game was the biggest issue that they had to correct. The message must have been lost in translation.

Just 20 seconds into the game, Green fouled Aaron Gordon, sending him to the line for two free throws. Gordon scored 12 points in the first quarter alone after averaging 13.5 in the first four games. He attempted seven free throws by himself in the first quarter, the same number the Warriors took as a team.

By halftime, the Warriors were called for only three more fouls than the Nuggets, but Denver had attempted 20 free throws. The Warriors took seven. That’s right, not one in the second quarter as they scored only 18 points.

The Warriors know this is a problem, now they have to fix it.

Bully Ball

To put it as nice as possible, the Warriors got punked on the glass. At least through the first three quarters.

Nikola Jokic had 19 rebounds by himself, and nine in the first quarter. The Warriors had 10 in the first quarter.

Through three quarters, the Nuggets were outrebounding the Warriors 46-27. But in the fourth quarter, the Warriors outrebounded them 10-4. That made a huge difference and helped push the pace for the Golden State.

They’ll be happy to be done with Jokic, and this is just another part of the game that they’ll have to clean up against their next opponent.

One stat to remember: The Nuggets had 14 offensive rebounds and the Warriors had six. But in the fourth quarter, the Warriors had two and the Nuggets didn’t grab a single one.

Kerr and the rest of his staff will circle that on the stat sheet. So will either the Grizzlies or T-Wolves.

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