Big man battle getting physical in Nuggets-Warriors series

Denver's JaVale McGee and Golden State's Andrew Bogut at epicenter
by Aaron Lopez

SAN FRANCISCO – JaVale McGee refused to comply with the unusual request.

Locked in an a tight playoff game, the Denver Nuggets center found himself face-to-face with Andrew Bogut, who pointed to his chin and shouted over the din of the sellout crowd at Oracle Arena.

“He told me to punch him in the chin,” McGee said. “I don’t know why you’d want somebody to punch you in your chin.”

Bogut was whistled for a technical foul, but the exchange seemed to inspire Golden State and its crowd in the third quarter of Game 3 against Denver on Friday night in Oakland.

The Warriors went on to win 110-108 to take a 2-1 series lead heading into Game 4 on Sunday.

McGee dunked over Bogut in Denver’s victory in Game 1 but said there is otherwise no history of animosity between the two. Chalk it up to the increased intensity and physicality of the postseason.

“I feel he was trying to get me to do something to where I get kicked out (of the game),” McGee said. “If you watch the tape, when I’m in there, he’s closer to me and less effective blocking shots because he’s worried about me getting the alley oop or getting rebounds. When I’m out, it’s totally different. He’s going after everything.”

Asked about his physical play in the series, Bogut said he’s simply fulfilling his role as a presence in the paint. He has blocked six shots in the series and set countless hard screens for Golden State’s skill players such as Stephen Curry, Jarrett Jack and Klay Thompson.

“I'm not going out there to hurt anybody or be cheap or anything,” Bogut told reporters Saturday. “I'm just playing physical like they are. If someone steps up and wants to get into it, I've got no problem with that.

“It’s nothing personal. They’re physical. Kenneth Faried runs around and hits people. We just have to match their intensity. If it gets personal during games and guys want to have a crack at you, that’s playoff basketball. I’m not sitting here saying I hate McGee or I hate Faried. But if they want to be physical, we’re going to be physical back. We’re not going to take a step backward.”

As both the Nuggets and Warriors engage in small-ball, the 7-foot Bogut often is the lone player on the court taller than 6-8.

Nuggets coach George Karl is likely to stick with his quicker lineup as the series goes on, rotating McGee, Kosta Koufos and Anthony Randolph into the mix depending on the flow of the game.

“So much of the things I want from our bigs are the pick-and-roll defense and rebounding,” Karl said. “If JaVale gives me that, he’ll stay on the court longer. If I think Kenneth or Kosta are doing it better, they’re going to be on the court.”