OAKLAND -- It wasn't how coach Mark Jackson drew it up, and it certainly wasn't as pretty as the Game 2 victory in Denver.
But despite the multitude of errors, despite allowing the Nuggets to finally play their game, despite trying to give it away down the stretch, the Warriors took control of the series. Friday's ulcer-causing 110-108 win in Game 3 put the Warriors ahead 2-1 in the first-round Western Conference series.
Warriors point guard Stephen Curry had 29 points, 11 assists and six rebounds despite playing on a gimpy wheel. Point guard Jarrett Jack had 23 points and seven assists starting in place of injured forward David Lee for the second consecutive game. Forward Carl Landry had 19 points off the bench.
The Warriors survived a critical turnover and two missed free throws by getting the kind of defensive stops that defined their season. They outrebounded Denver, again, and though the Nuggets shot 46.5 percent, Golden State was able to make the plays it needed to win.
The Warriors overcame a monster game from Nuggets guard Ty Lawson (35 points and 10 assists) and now have a chance to put Denver in a choke hold with a win in Game 4 on Sunday.
The fourth quarter was riveting from the outside, with an all-gold Oracle Arena crowd on its feet most of the quarter. Nuggets forward Anthony Randolph, a former Warrior, opened the fourth quarter consecutive baskets inside, giving the Nuggets an 88-87 lead.
But Golden State took control of the game with three straight baskets: a layup by rookie forward Harrison Barnes layup, a 3-pointer by rookie forward Draymond Green, and a jumper by Carl Landry.
The 7-0 run put Golden State up 94-88 with just over nine minutes left in the game. The Warriors, who had been behind by as much as 13, now had the advantage of playing front-runner. And every time Denver encroached their lead, the Warriors answered.
Green dropped in a reverse layup after a dunk by Nuggets forward Kenneth Faried. Curry then dropped in a floater after another Faried stuff. Golden State led 98-94 with 4:59 left. After a Corey Brewer tip-in, the Curry scooped in a finger roll to push the lead back to four.
Golden State's lead was down to 104-102 after a pair of free throws by Lawson. But Barnes followed by slipping a pass to a cutting Klay Thompson for a layup. Then Curry stole the ball from Miller and turned it into a pair of free throws at the other end. Golden State led 108-102 with 1:54 left.
After a three-point play by Lawson halved the Warriors' lead, Curry had a couple of chances to ice it. But he just rimmed out a driving layup, and his step-back jumper rattled out. But Golden State's defense managed three straight stops when it desperately needed them, keeping Denver at bay. Jack split a pair of free throws with 21.5 seconds left, putting the Warriors up 109-105.
A Wilson Chandler 3-pointer cut Golden State's lead to 109-108. Then the Warriors, with 9.4 seconds left, turned it over on a five-second call.
Golden State got the ball back when Lawson dribbled out of bounds, which replay confirmed. The Warriors were able to get the ball in this time, to Barnes. He split the free throws and Iguodala's half-court heave rimmed out at the buzzer.
The Warriors trailed by 12 at the half, leaving the ready-to-explode crowd at Oracle Arena nervous.
The game was tied at 32 after though the Warriors remained in a groove shooting the ball. They connected on 61.1 percent of their shots in the first quarter, getting 21 points combined for Curry and Jack.
The Nuggets weren't as hot, shooting 45.5 percent, but made up for it with 10 of 12 from the free throw line. The parade to the charity stripe would help Denver find the groove it was looking for --especially Denver guard Ty Lawson, who scored 13 points in the first quarter, seven coming from the line.
The game was tied at 36 after a Carl Landry dunk early in the second quarter. But Denver ripped off a 14-5 run to take a 50-41 lead, capped with a Brewer 3-pointer.
The Warriors answered with a run of their own. Bogut and Barnes scored twice during an 11-3 Golden State run, which was capped with a Curry 3-pointer to trim Denver's lead to 53-52 with 3:34 left.
But the Warriors managed just two points, a Landry layup, the rest of the half, thanks largely to four turnovers in the final 2:36.
But by the start of the fourth quarter, that deficit was erased and Oracle Arena was deafening.
Lawson was back to getting whatever he wanted against the Warriors' defense. He followed a driving finger roll with an open 3-pointer to put Denver ahead 71-58 with 8:51 left in the third. But Golden State mounted a comeback over the next four minutes.
The Warriors held Denver to two points on 1 of 5 shooting with a turnover during that stretch. Barnes started the run with a dunk set up by Curry and, moments later, drilled an open 3-pointer, cutting Denver's lead to 71-65.
After a Lawson layup, Curry converted a pull-up then hit two free throws. Jack forced a Denver timeout with a fade-away bank shot at the 6:14 mark. Golden State's deficit was two. Curry's 3-pointer from the left wing gave the Warriors the lead, 74-73.
The game was tied at 76 when Denver ran off five straight, getting a 3-pointer from Chandler and a picturesque alley-oop from Andre Miller to Iguodala. But Golden State answered by closing the third quarter with an 8-1 run. With Curry on the bench, Jack dribbled around the Nuggets defense twice, once for a layup, the other for a floater. Landry then closed the spurt with a pull-up jumper.
The Warriors went into the fourth quarter with all the momentum after closing the third with Draymond Green stealing the ball from Miller. Golden State led 87-84 entering the fourth quarter, setting stage for a dramatic ending.