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DENVER – Mark Jackson is standing up for his smooth-shooting guard who's constantly getting knocked down.
The Golden State Warriors coach believes Denver is targeting Stephen Curry and intentionally trying to hurt him.
A push here. An elbow there. Anything to throw an already hobbled Curry off his game.
That's why Jackson was upset after the Nuggets beat the Warriors 107-100 in Game 5 on Tuesday night at Pepsi Center. Jackson felt some of the tactics employed by Denver were "dirty."
"We went up 3-1 playing hard, physical, clean basketball, not trying to hurt anybody," said Jackson, whose team takes a 3-2 series lead back home for Game 6 on Thursday night. "Take a look at the game. The screen on Curry, by the foul line, it was a shot at his ankle, clearly. That can't be debated."
Already in this series, Curry has a sprained left ankle and a puffy right eye, courtesy of an accidental poke.
After a game in which he scored 15 points, Curry settled into his seat in the locker room and soaked his sore ankle. He also had a large plastic protective cover on his left hand.
Everything all right?
"Good enough to go," Curry said. "It's the playoffs. No point in trying to gauge where you are, if I can play I can go."
As for the physical nature of the game, well, Curry said he's got to expect it.
"Not let it faze me, which I don't think it did," Curry said. "Got to expect the same thing next game."
He thought the Nuggets worked in a few cheap shots, like when he was cruising through the pain — "minding my own business," he explained — when he was hit from out of nowhere by an elbow.
"I got a hit out on me," Curry said. "I don't know what it is. Just got to keep playing and do your thing."
In a way, Curry takes it as a compliment the Nuggets are trying to throw him off rhythm by throwing elbows.
"I've been playing well so you want to slow it down as much as possible," Curry said. "I understand if I'm going to the basket and you want to give a hard foul. We do the same thing; you don't want anyone to feel comfortable on the court. But there's a time and place."
Jackson had seen enough and finally spoke up after the game, saying the Nuggets tried to send "hit men on Steph.
"Give them credit: It wasn't cocky basketball, they outplayed us. It wasn't magic, they outplayed us," Jackson added.
One name near the top of the Warriors' naughty list was Kenneth Faried, the energetic forward who scored 13 points and grabbed 10 rebounds before fouling out.
"Set some great screens. Some great illegal ones, too," Jackson said. "He did his job. I played with guys like that. You're paid to do that.
"As an opposing coach, I see it and I'm trying to protect my guys."
When told that Jackson thought the Nuggets were trying to hurt Curry, Faried had a stunned look on his face.
"That's intriguing because I think they were purposefully trying to hurt me every play I went for a rebound — the hits, the grab to the throat, just the negative stuff you usually don't see in the regular season that's not getting called in the playoffs," Faried said.
Some of it was caught by the officials, though. Andrew Bogut was called for a flagrant foul in the second quarter for pushing Faried in the face on a rebound. Later, Draymond Green was whistled for a flagrant when he body-checked Faried in the lane.
"My energy and getting the crowd into it and feeding off other team's mistakes and rebounding and making the hustle plays my teammates need me to make really frustrates guys," Faried said.
Almost as much as Curry's ability to make an open jumper. Whenever he found daylight coming off a screen, he typically hit the shot. It's a brand of basketball that infuriates opposing players because they're always trying to get around picks.
"I've got inside information that some people don't like that brand of basketball and they clearly didn't co-sign it," Jackson said. "They wanted to let me know they have no parts in what was taking place. Let the best team win. Let everybody with the exception of going down with a freak injury, let everybody leave out of here healthy."
Down by as many as 22 points in the second half, the Warriors whittled the lead to 100-95 on a jumper by Klay Thompson with 2:16 remaining.
All of a sudden, a rowdy Pepsi Center crowd went quiet.
But not for long as Wilson Chandler hit a 3-pointer to give the Nuggets some breathing room and help send the series back to Oakland.
"We can beat them. We know we can," Faried said. "We've got to stay focused and get prepared."
That is Golden State's mantra as well.
"They did a good job. That's how they generally play in the regular season," Bogut said. "Part of that was our fault as a team. We need to match that physicality in Game 6 and don't turn the ball over. We definitely had a chance to win. They came out and threw the first punch and sustained it the whole game."
Notes: Warriors F Harrison Barnes led the team with 23 points, while G/F Jarrett Jack finished with 20. ... Golden State is now 4-16 all-time in Game 5s on the road. ... Nuggets F Danilo Gallinari underwent surgery to repair meniscus in his left knee and will later have another procedure to fix his ACL.