HANG TIME WEST – Now we know for sure Stephen Curry has hit the big time. Not because he threw the Warriors on his back in the playoffs, the ultimate superstar move, not because he did it playing hurt, and not even because praise as the best shooter in the game is practically coming nonstop.
It’s because the Nuggets are getting physical with him.
There is no greater status symbol than a player who demands extra attention from the opponent, and Curry is there as the first-round series returns to Oakland tonight (10:30 ET, TNT) with Golden State holding a 3-2 lead and trying to close out. That hasn’t just been the case since the rowdy Game 5, either. The Nuggets have been crowding him from the beginning. Tuesday in Denver was merely the continuing escalation.
The move by Kenneth Faried of the Nuggets to trip Curry was a cheap tactic, especially given Curry’s history of ankle problems, but Warriors coach Mark Jackson went over the top with the statement that Denver sent hit men after Curry. Or at least that’s what it sounded like Jackson said over the laughter of Dennis Rodman, Bill Laimbeer, Kevin McHale and Rick Mahorn. And Kurt Rambis’ neck says hello, too.
The series had turned testy long ago, since the Andrew Bogut-JaVale McGee scrape in Game 3 led to Bogut pointing to his chin while close to McGee, daring McGee to take a poke. In the regular season, it would have been a passing moment. In a long playoff series, it’s a layer in the rising tensions.
“If there’s a scorecard and we’re in a boxing fight right now, they’re winning the fight,” Nuggets coach George Karl told reporters in Denver. “OK, we won a round (here and there), but I’m going to tell you, I’ll go to any arbiter now and show the dirty shots — they’re winning.
“Some of them are really good at the things they do. Andrew Bogut started it; the (Draymond) Green kid is really good at it; and Festus (Ezeli) is pretty good too…. Check the elbow to Ty Lawson‘s head with 20 seconds to go in the second quarter. Check that one out.”
Curry and the Warriors — and especially Jackson, the former veteran point guard — could not have been surprised this was coming, even if they were bothered by the extent. Of course the Nuggets, with the benefit of bigger wing defenders to throw at Curry, were going to get physical with him. Any playoff opponent would have tried the same thing, only without Corey Brewer and Andre Igoudala.
Don’t be surprised at an early technical tonight by the officiating crew headed by Danny Crawford, one of the best, to send a message it will keep order. Don’t be surprised if both sides remain aggressive and the crowd at Oracle Arena, passionate anyway, is especially riled. But most of all, don’t be surprised this has happened with Curry.