Oakland, CA – The Golden State Warriors are headed to the Western Conference semifinals, but only after nearly blowing an 18-point lead in the fourth quarter.
Stephen Curry scored 14 of his 22 points in a momentum-changing third quarter and Golden State fended off a furious Denver comeback to win Game 6 in a 92-88 thriller.
"You're excited, obviously," Curry said. "For me, my first playoff series win, first for the organization in a while. Everybody is relieved to kind of get it done. It's still a hazy kind of feeling because of the way the game ended, it going down to that last possession. Just a sense of relief with the way the game finished."
Andrew Bogut stepped up with 14 points and 21 rebounds after a silent start to the series, and the sixth-seeded Warriors, appearing in the postseason for the first time since 2007, held Denver to 35 percent shooting to advance.
Draymond Green chipped in 16 points with 10 boards and netted six critical points after the Nuggets made things interesting with a late 13-0 run.
David Lee surprisingly made a brief appearance in the first quarter, and it's unclear whether the All-Star forward will play in the next round against the San Antonio Spurs. The Spurs completed their sweep of the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday.
Denver, the West's No. 3 seed, lost all three games at Oracle Arena and heads home early following its 57-win regular season. Andre Iguodala led the way Thursday with 24 points, nine rebounds and six assists, while Ty Lawson added 17 points, though the point guard had just five after halftime.
Wilson Chandler scored 11 points, but shot just 5-of-17 from the floor and missed a potential tying runner in the final minute.
"A good series for both teams that are young, have a bright future in the Western Conference," Nuggets coach George Karl said. "I'm disappointed in the result, but can't be more proud of my basketball team, the way we shot the ball. We had numerous moments to give in on the game and we never did. One more layup, one more free throw go in, could have been a miraculous comeback."
Warriors head coach Mark Jackson was fined $25,000 by the NBA for his comments following Denver's Game 5 victory. Jackson claimed the Nuggets got away with several "dirty" plays, claiming Nuggets power forward Kenneth Faried took a cheap shot at Curry's oft-injured ankles.
Coincidentally, or perhaps not, Faried was whistled for three fouls in less than a minute early in the third quarter with Denver holding a 44-40 lead.
With Faried on the bench, the Warriors took control. Curry hit two straight 3- pointers to cap a quick 10-0 run that gave the hosts a 50-44 advantage. Carl Landry's three-point play off a transition feed from Curry pushed the margin to double digits, 64-53, near the midway point, and Golden State brought a 73-62 lead into the final 12 minutes.
The Warriors scored the first seven points in the fourth to go ahead by a seemingly comfortable 80-62 margin with 9:11 remaining.
The Nuggets momentarily silenced the home crowd with 13 consecutive points to pull within five, and after Green drove in for a layup to end the drought, Iguodala drained a 3-pointer, cutting the deficit to 82-78 with 4:14 left.
Another Iguodala triple pulled the visitors within three with 62 seconds to play, and Faried made it 90-88 when he split a pair at the foul line with 32.4 seconds on the clock.
A turnover off an inbounds pass -- Golden State's 10th giveaway in the quarter -- led to Chandler driving the right side and putting up a floater that drew iron. Chandler's tip-in was also off the mark, and he knocked the ball out of bounds with 11.4 seconds to go.
Jarrett Jack sank the clinching free throws to end Denver's season.
The first quarter was highlighted by two unlikely occurrences. Lee entered the game with 2:23 on the clock to a standing ovation just two weeks after a torn right hip flexor was thought to have ended his season. He missed the only shot he took, was back on the bench 1:27 later and did not re-enter the game.
Nuggets center Kosta Koufos beat the shot clock with an unlikely 3-pointer -- the first of his five-year career -- in the latter stages of the frame, and Denver took a 25-21 lead into the second quarter.
The Warriors connected on an uncharacteristically low 39 percent from the field in the first half, but only trailed by two, 42-40, at halftime as a result of the Nuggets hitting on just 34 percent of their shots.
Denver led by as many as 11 behind 13 offensive rebounds, scoring 12 points off 10 turnovers and holding the backcourt duo of Curry and Klay Thompson to a meager nine points.
The Warriors have not lost a Game 6 at home since April 5, 1969 ... Denver has lost in the first round of the playoffs nine of the last 10 years ... Golden State committed 21 turnovers to Denver's seven ... Faried totaled 11 points and 10 rebounds.