To the Nuggets, the Warriors are magic
9:31 AM
Art Spander in Andrew Bogut, Nuggets, Stephen Curry, Warriors, articles, basketball

By Art Spander

OAKLAND — The other coach, George Karl, and he’s an experienced coach, a winning coach, made a reference to the mystical, as if this first-round NBA playoff was being determined by factors other than suffocating defense and offense that does at times seem otherworldly.
  
“They’ve found some magic,” Karl said of the Golden State Warriors, “and we’ve got to take it away.” But time and games are running out for Karl’s Denver Nuggets. Time, games and history.
  
The Warriors did it again to the Nuggets on Sunday night, a Sabbath of bewilderment and not faith for Denver, figuratively run off the court at Oracle Arena, 115-101, by the Warriors, who now are one game away from the series everyone presumed would belong to the Nuggets.
 
Three games to one, the Warriors lead now, after three straight victories. They broke the curse — maybe it was magic — last week, winning at Denver where the Nuggets had lost only three times in 41 games during the regular season.
  
Sunday night, they broke Denver’s back.
   
It was Andrew Bogut, rattling rims — and maybe Karl’s senses — dominating in the first half and then, on a sore ankle, Stephen Curry, with 22 points in the third quarter and 31 for the game, in the second half.
   
It was defense that had the Nuggets throwing away passes and rushing shots.
  
It was basketball played by the book and by the heart, basketball that had a sellout crowd of 19,596 in a three-hour frenzy.
  
Warriors coach Mark Jackson, while enthralled, was also wary, offering the obligatory, “It’s not over yet” when we know it is — even if a year ago Denver rallied to beat the Lakers.
  
But the Warriors are the better team, the hotter team, the growing team. They might drop Game 5 Tuesday night at Denver, but they certainly will not lose Game 6 back in Oakland.
   
There’s no fear in the Warriors, and no reluctance either. They are believers and competitors. They swarm when the opponent has the ball — in the second quarter, the Nuggets made 10 turnovers to the Warriors one. The connect when they have the ball.
  
“God bless Steph Curry,” said Karl, “but there’s Jarrett Jack and (Carl) Landry. They also score. Turnovers gave (the Warriors) control of the ball. But it takes one game to turn it around, to regain our confidence.”
  
The Warriors are the confident ones. They’ve always been confident. It’s an expression of youth and fantasy. To the Warriors, anything is possible. Even shooting 75 percent, which they did in the third period, hitting 13 of 17 from the field.
    
Curry, naturally, was the catalyst. The right ankle, the one that’s troubled him for years, the one that required surgery, was sore even before the game, and so he received an injection, a pain killer.  
  
However, the hurt remained early on, and so Jackson thought of benching his star and did take him off the court for a long while.
  
Finally the pain subsided after intermission. Curry was able to flee the Nuggets’ trapping defense. A shot went in. Then another. Then another. In the last 4 minutes 22 seconds of the third quarter, Curry scored 19. Game, set and virtually match.
   
“He put the team on his back,” said Jackson, repeating a comment he’s used frequently, and for good reason. After that, someone from the Nuggets put a finger in Curry’s eye. With the Warriors up by 20 or so, Jackson smartly pulled Curry.
   
“I was considering shutting him down in the first half,” said Jackson, “and I told him that. It was almost like a boxer who knew he was on the ropes, because it was a matter of time. I told him I didn’t need him to be a hero. Smart coaching, huh? I guess he realized and sensed that, and he captured the moment and embraced the moment.
  
“The thing that stood out to me, it’s almost like he was waiting for this moment his entire career and wasn’t going to allow his body to tell him that he was too hurt to match the moment. It was an incredible, incredible performance by him once again.”
  
It was a performance reminiscent of that by Sleepy Floyd, who for the Warriors in a 1987 playoff against the Lakers scored 51 points, a record 29 in the third quarter. The Warriors coach that game: George Karl.
  
“They were definitely the quality offensive team,” Karl said of these Warriors on Sunday night. “They have shooters like they have, and Bogut played well.”
  
The 7-foot Bogut, acquired in a trade a year ago but not entirely recovered from ankle surgery that predated the swap, was aggressive and mean in the first half. He had several dunks, going to the basket as Denver trapped Curry, and one, reshown on the big screen again and again, was the stuff — literally — that brought fans to their feet hollering in delight.
  
“He was off the charts,” Jackson said of Bogut. “I thought he was the key to keeping us in the ball game, setting screens, rebounding, playing physical.”
  
Curry was on the charts, taking 16 shots and making 10, going 6 of 11 on 3-pointers. He also had seven assists, numbers that have to be displayed.
  
“The way I explain it,” said Jackson, a who has his own church, “(Curry) is blessed.”
   
If you choose to describe that as magic, all well and good.

Article originally appeared on Art Spander (http://artspander.com/).
See website for complete article licensing information.