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 Friday's 110-108 win was, in many ways, exactly the kind of win the Warriors wanted.

Gritty. Resilient. Tough.

Golden State took a 2-1 lead in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs because of timely defense against a desperate Nuggets squad.

"We're tied together, we compete, and we're a defensive-minded team," Jackson said. "When you make defense your primary focus, you're going to be in ballgames. ... We gave up 42 second-half points because we locked in and we competed."

Golden State Warriors fans hold up a sign for Stephen Curry before the start of Game 3 of their NBA first round playoff game at Oracle Arena in Oakland,
Golden State Warriors fans hold up a sign for Stephen Curry before the start of Game 3 of their NBA first round playoff game at Oracle Arena in Oakland, Calif. on Friday, April 26, 2013. (Jim Gensheimer/Bay Area News Group) ( Jim Gensheimer )

Point guard Stephen Curry, who was questionable coming into the game with a sprained left ankle, carried the Warriors again on offense. He put up 29 points, 11 assists and six rebounds. And guard Jarrett Jack -- starting in place of injured forward David Lee for the second consecutive game -- put together another productive game with 23 points, seven assists and five rebounds.

The Warriors shot 52.5 percent, but it wasn't the offensive spectacle they put together in Game 2 on Tuesday, when they made Denver's head spin with 131 points on 64.6 percent shooting. They made 8 of 20 3-pointers on Friday, compared with 14 of 25 in Game 2. Their 23 turnovers led to 30 points for the Nuggets.


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And their defense wasn't good throughout the game. Nuggets guard Ty Lawson torched the Warriors with 35 points and 10 assists. Denver racked up 66 first-half points on 53.3 percent shooting. The Nuggets, the NBA's highest-scoring team in the regular season, seemed to have their mojo back.

But Golden State clamped down in the third quarter, holding Denver to 18 points on 35 percent shooting. That got the raucous Oracle crowd into it and fueled the Warriors' offense, as Golden State outscored Denver 33-18 to take an 87-84 lead into the fourth quarter.

Then, in the end, after the Nuggets made a push to steal Game 3 and the momentum of the series, the Warriors bended but didn't break. They got the stops when they needed them most. They crashed the boards collectively to outrebound Denver again. They forced seven fourth-quarter turnovers and held the Nuggets to 9-of-21 shooting over the final 12 minutes.

Golden State took control of the game with three straight baskets: a layup by rookie forward Harrison Barnes, 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.

And every time Denver encroached on their lead, the Warriors had an answer.

The Golden State Warriors square off to play the Denver Nuggets in Game 3 of their NBA first round playoff game at Oracle Arena in Oakland, Calif. on
The Golden State Warriors square off to play the Denver Nuggets in Game 3 of their NBA first round playoff game at Oracle Arena in Oakland, Calif. on Friday, April 26, 2013. (Jim Gensheimer/Bay Area News Group) ( Jim Gensheimer )

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 two free throws by Lawson. But Barnes followed by slipping a pass to a cutting Klay Thompson for a layup. Then Curry crept behind Andre Miller on the baseline to pick his pocket, leading to two Curry free throws at the other end. Golden State led 108-102 with 1:54 left.

A three-point play by Lawson halved the Warriors' lead. And while Golden State couldn't come up with the dagger baskets, its defense produced three straight stops to keep Denver at bay.

Jack split two free throws with 21.5 seconds left, putting the Warriors up 109-105. A Wilson Chandler 3-pointer then cut Golden State's lead to 109-108. The Warriors, with 9.4 seconds left, gave the ball back to Denver after a five-second violation.

But defensive pressure prompted Lawson to dribble out of bounds, which a television replay confirmed. Barnes followed by splitting two free throws, and Golden State survived when Andre Iguodala's half-court heave rimmed out at the buzzer.

"There was a point in time where if we didn't score on the last possession or turned the ball over on a five-second violation, we would panic," Jackson said. "We got into the huddle and we said, 'This is how we win ballgames, on the defensive end. Let's go get a stop.' ... It was a big time win for us."

Golden State Warriors fans Germaine Escoto, left, and Gerry Segarra, both of San Francisco, boo the Denver Nuggets in the first half of Game 3 of their NBA
Golden State Warriors fans Germaine Escoto, left, and Gerry Segarra, both of San Francisco, boo the Denver Nuggets in the first half of Game 3 of their NBA first round playoff game against the Denver Nuggets at Oracle Arena in Oakland, Calif. on Friday, April 26, 2013. (Jim Gensheimer/Bay Area News Group) ( Jim Gensheimer )

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Inside

The Warriors committed 23 turnovers, leading to 30 points for the Nuggets, but still managed to win Game 3. PAGE 6
Warriors receive a full dose of the good (23 points, seven assists) and the bad (seven turnovers) from veteran guard Jarrett Jack. PAGE 6

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For more from Game 3, go to WWW.mercurynews.com/tim-kawakami