Two stellar scoring games. Two highlight-filled performances.
Ty Lawson had a career playoff-high 35 points to go with 10 assists as the Denver Nuggets dropped their second straight game to the Golden State Warriors, 110-108 on Friday night to fall behind 2-1 in the first-round series.
"There was a lot of good tonight," Nuggets coach George Karl said. "I told the team after the game, 'The process of the NBA playoffs is to get better. We got better tonight. We didn't win tonight. But there's a process going on, and it's just two wins. They're only halfway there.'"
Reserve Corey Brewer scored 16 points and Andre Iguodala added 14 points for the Nuggets before missing a 3-pointer from around half court as the buzzer sounded. For all its offensive brilliance, Denver dropped its second straight game — and its grip on the best-of-seven series — because of another deficient defensive showing.
"We were hot, we were feeling it but we had to stay aggressive and we stopped," said Kenneth Faried, who finished with 15 points and seven rebounds.
Game 4 is Sunday night in Oakland.
Stephen Curry played through a sprained left ankle to score 29 points and hand out 11 assists and Jarrett Jack added 23 points and seven assists to pace the Warriors again. Golden State outshot the Nuggets 52.5 to 46.5 percent and won the rebounding battle for the third straight game, 42-34.
The Warriors still had to sweat out Andre Iguodala's missed 3-pointer as the buzzer sounded, setting off a gold-confetti celebration throughout the announced sellout crowd of 19,596, which stood for most of the fourth quarter in Golden State's first home playoff game since 2007 and just the second postseason appearance in 19 years.
"There's nothing like something being as good as advertised," Warriors coach Mark Jackson said. "They were loud. They were consistent and we fed off them even when we didn't match their intensity."
The teams traded spectacular shots for most of the game, especially in the closing moments.
Curry, wearing a large white brace around both ankles, crossed over Faried and then dropped in a high-arching lefty floater. Curry added another on the next possession — only with his right hand, and this time hitting almost all net to put the Warriors back up four.
Faried followed with a reverse layup. A few plays later, Curry stole the ball from Andre Miller from behind and then nearly dropped in another floater as Wilson Chandler fouled him. Curry's free throws gave Golden State a 108-102 lead with 1:54 remaining.
After Denver called timeout, Lawson's layup over Draymond Green started a three-point play. Denver got a stop before Lawson's 3-pointer hit the front iron and Curry corralled the rebound — but then missed a layup on the other end.
Twice given a chance to either tie or take the lead, Denver blew both.
Iguodala got caught in the air trying to make a pass, Jack batted it away and hit 1 of 2 free throws for a 109-105 lead with 21.5 seconds to play. Chandler stunned the crowd with a quick 3 from the corner, the Nuggets covered Curry on the ensuing inbound and Jack was called for a rare 5-second violation.
Klay Thompson and backup center Festus Ezeli trapped Lawson off a pick-and-roll, and Lawson dribbled the ball off his leg and out of bounds. Officials confirmed the call with a video review.
"We gotta take care of our business," said Lawson, who shot 11 for 22 from the floor.
After Harrison Barnes made just the second free throw, Iguodala received the inbound pass. He took a few dribbles and heaved a shot from around half-court, hitting the front iron and letting the home fans exhale.
Golden State followed its 64.6 percent shooting performance — the highest in an NBA playoff game in 22 years — during its 131-117 win at Denver on Tuesday night with another gem befitting the Bay Area's basketball party.
Ushers and parking lot attendants greeted fans with "welcome to the playoffs." Almost every fan wore a gold shirt read "We are Warriors" on the front, and the 33rd straight sellout that packed Oracle Arena often yelled so loud even players had a hard time hearing whistles.
"I've never seen anything like it," Jack said.
Jackson stuck with his smaller lineup for the second straight game since David Lee went down with a season-ending tear of his right hip flexor. Guards Curry, Jack and Thompson started alongside small forward Barnes and center Andrew Bogut, who had nine rebounds and six points and was a constant paint presence.
Karl countered with an even smaller lineup: forward Faried started at center in place of struggling big man Kosta Koufos, Chandler was at power forward, Iguodala at small forward, Evan Fournier at shooting guard and Lawson at point guard.
The athletic Nuggets constantly swarmed Curry and Jack — or whoever dribbled off pick-and-rolls — with double teams as soon as they crossed midcourt, forcing Golden State into 23 total turnovers.
Every time Curry lined up to shoot, the crowd's collective inhale could be heard. The silence was usually followed by a remarkable roar — and until the final 15 minutes, often by another avalanche of Denver offense.
After going down by 13 points in the third quarter, the Warriors answered with a 16-2 run capped by Curry's 3-pointer near Denver's bench. The shot gave Golden State a 74-73 lead and sent owners Joe Lacob and Peter Guber jumping out of their courtside seats, screaming, clapping and motioning to the stands to shout even louder.
"The fans," Curry said, "really had that energy stored up."
NOTES: Bogut was called for a technical foul in the third quarter after a verbal exchange with Denver's JaVale McGee. ... McGee grabbed his right shoulder when he was fouled in the first quarter. He had four points and one rebound in almost 14 minutes.