Nuggets-Warriors Game 5: Hitmen, Mark Jackson, and a street fight noir

By Matt Moore | NBA writer

DENVER-- And all of a sudden, the series that was all about Stephen Curry's fire and the Warriors rising to the clouds has become about trash, dirt, and hit men. Welcome to the street fight noir, authored by Denver and Golden State after the Nuggets' Game 5 win.

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Mark Jackson got the ball rolling in his post-game presser, saying the Nuggets sent "hit men" at his star point guard.

"They tried to send hit men on (Stephen Curry), but I give them credit... There were some dirty plays early. It's playoff basketball; it's all right. Make no mistake about it: we went up 3-1 playing hard, physical, and clean basketball, not trying to hurt anyone."

Then Mark Jackson dropped this bomb, claiming that there was dissention inside the Nuggets about deliberate attempts to injure Curry.

"I have inside information that some people don't like that brand of basketball, and they clearly didn't co-sign it so they wanted to let me know that they had no part in what was taking place."

Curry backed his coach's viewpoint after the game.

"I'm going through the paint minding mind my own business and they're coming out of nowhere trying to throw elbows,” he said.

“They've got a hit out on me, I don't know what it is."

Pretty strong comments from the team up 3-2.

Jarrett Jack sat down to talk to reporters, then was called into the hall to talk to Mark Jackson. When he returned, Jack denied any and all implications of "dirty play."

"It was good defense," Jack said. "We welcome good defense. It felt like good defense and we liked it."

The Nuggets, to no surprise, vehemently denied the accusation, and true to form, turned it right back around on the Warriors.

"That's surprising to me if you watch the first couple of games," point guard Ty Lawson said. "Just watch Andrew Bogut and watch Draymond Green and Festus (Ezili). I guarantee you you'll find dirty plays.

I wouldn't even say they were dirty plays, I'd say they were physical plays. More physical plays than we're used to in the regular season."

So are the Nuggets insulted by the accusation?

"A little bit. You gotta look at yourself before you point fingers. Andrew Bogut, he chucked Kenneth Faried in the face a couple of times. We're just trying to even out the series with physical play."

Nugget players acted surprised when informed of the Warriors' comments, citing the same things Lawson did.

George Karl, after all questions had been asked post-game, said, asked wryly, and without solicitation:

"Did Draymond Green play football or basketball at Michigan State?"

The reality is that this series ramped up in Game 5 as the Nuggets hit back on a Warriors team that had embarassed them for three games. And instead of Curry finding open space and freedom to move, the Nuggets crowded and attacked him, bumped him and ran him through screens.

Jackson has managed to switch the narrative. Instead of talking about a lost opportunity or the pressure of Game 6, the talk will be about whether the Nuggets are dirty. That will be the discussion, and in doing so, he's put an emotional rallying point around the team. We'll see if it pays off in the friendly confines of Roaracle Thursday night.

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