SAN FRANCISCO – In his return to the starting lineup, Stephen Curry scored 30 points to help the Golden State Warriors defeat Nikola Jokic and the Denver Nuggets 102-98 to close out the first-round series in five games.
The Warriors improved to 43-24 all-time in series clinching games. Dating back to 2015, the team is now 19-8 in closeout games; 12-3 in Game 5s.
Curry saved his best for last, scoring 11 points in the fourth quarter. With 1:33 left in the game, Curry converted a three-point play and then added another layup with 29 seconds remaining to propel Golden State into the Western Conference Semifinals.
Curry shot 10-for-22 from the floor, including five 3s. Curry (3,108) passed Julius Erving (3,088) for 24th on the NBA’s all-time playoff scoring list. Draymond Green finished with 11 points, five rebounds and six assists. His three blocked shots tonight moved him past Kevin Garnett for 22nd on the NBA’s career postseason blocks list. He is the Warriors all-time postseason career leader in rebounds (1,149), blocks (180) and steals (197).
“I feel like he’s built for the playoffs,” head coach Steve Kerr said. “This is what he’s all about, when you can actually exert the energy that he exerts and the competitive force and get a day off the next day and not have three games in five nights in every city.”
Kerr went with a small starting lineup Curry, Jordan Poole, Andrew Wiggins, Klay Thompson and Green. Kevon Looney came off the bench. Thompson added 15 points and a team-high nine rebounds.
“Mike [Brown] challenged me to get inside tonight,” said Thompson, who scored in double figures in all five games this series.
Wiggins chipped in 12 points and five rebounds. Gary Payton II scored 8 of his 15 points off the bench in the fourth quarter. Payton nailed a pair of three-pointers and sandwiched a layup that helped the Warriors outscore the Nuggets 30-22 in the final period.
“He was incredible on both ends of the floor, big shots, big plays,” Green said.
Jokic scored 12 of his 30 points in the final 3:46 of the game. He added 19 rebounds and eight assists. Jokic shot 12-for-18 from the floor for Denver. The Nuggets held a 50-37 advantage over Golden State on the glass.
Jokic had 10 rebounds in his first 11 minutes of action. After a sluggish first-half that resulted in a 48-48 tie at halftime, Denver knocked down seven of its first 10 shots after the break to take their biggest lead of the game, 66-56. After the game, Green and Jokic embraced after a tough series.
“I told him, ‘Thank you for making me better,’” said Green. “It’s an honor to play against someone so talented, so skilled.”
DeMarcus Cousins added 19 points off the bench against the Warriors. Cousins drilled a three-pointer from the top of the arc that gave the Nuggets a 78-70 lead at the end of the third quarter. After scoring 15 points in the first half to lead all scorers, Aaron Gordon went scoreless in the second half. He had nine rebounds.
Will Baron and Monte Morris each scored 14 points for Denver, who shot 3-of-14 from deep in the first half and 6-for-29 overall.
The energy at tonight was electric as the sold-out crowd witnessed their first close-out playoff game at Chase Center.
The Warriors await the winner of the Memphis Grizzlies vs Minnesota Timberwolves series, with the Grizzlies up 3-2 going into Game 6 on Friday night in Minneapolis. Memphis eliminated Golden State last year in the first-round of NBA Play-In Tournament.
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