OAKLAND (AP) — Draymond Green threw his arms in the air and ran to Golden State Warriors coach Mark Jackson for an emotional hug. Jarrett Jack squatted down, put his right hand on his head and closed his eyes. Stephen Curry wanted to see it all — teammates parading around the court, gold confetti in the air, smiles all around the announced sellout crowd of 19,596.
Forget that “We Believe” team.
These Warriors proved they belong.
Curry had 22 points and eight assists, Andrew Bogut broke out with the best performance of his injury-saddled season and the Warriors eliminated the Denver Nuggets with a 92-88 victory in Game 6 on Thursday night.
“When we go in the locker room, we’re jumping up and down, we’re hugging, we’re changed men,” Jackson said. “This is the greatest group of men as far as a team that I’ve ever been around or seen in my life.”
Bogut had season-bests and career-playoff highs of 14 points and 21 rebounds, and Green added a career-high 16 points and 10 rebounds to power Golden State into the second round for the first time in six years.
Bogut also became the first Warriors player with 20 rebounds in the playoffs since Larry Smith had 23 on May 12, 1987 at the Lakers.
“It’s very emotional for me because I’ve had a nightmare of a year,” said Bogut, who added four blocks and three assists in an unforgettable performance after rehabilitating his left ankle most of the season.
The Warriors went ahead by 18 points early in the fourth quarter before holding off one final Nuggets flurry.
Andre Iguodala scored 24 points and Ty Lawson had 17 in another disappointed early exit for Denver, which has lost in the first round nine of the past 10 seasons. The Nuggets won 23 of their final 26 regular season games to earn the Western Conference’s third seed, then lost four of six to the hot-shooting Warriors.
“We didn’t lose this series tonight. This is a proud loss,” Nuggets coach George Karl said. “We lost this series in Game 1 and 2. We didn’t play well enough to sustain the confidence. We won Game 1 on a last-second layup. In Game 2, we gave away everything we worked for with 57 wins in the season. And that’s on me.”
The Warriors only outshot the Nuggets 40.3 percent to 34.7 percent in the finale but dominated the rebounding matchup again, 55-44. They also overcame 21 turnovers — including 10 in the fourth — while the Nuggets only had seven.
Golden State, seeded sixth, will open the second round at second-seeded San Antonio on Monday. The Spurs swept the Lakers in four games.
“I’m exhausted,” Warriors owner Joe Lacob said after emerging from the locker room celebration.
Jackson ratcheted up the rhetoric after the Nuggets won a physical Game 5, saying Denver sent “hit men” out to take “cheap shots” at Curry. The accusations earned Jackson a $25,000 fine from the NBA for an “attempt to influence the officiating,” though neither side ever got out of control in the finale.
Except Curry’s shooting — again
On the ball or off the dribble, Curry connected all over his home court in another dazzling second half. Curry swished all four of his 3-pointers in the third quarter and brought the frenzies fans roaring to their feet each time.
Green also made a corner 3 in front of Denver’s bench, and Klay Thompson hustled for a rebound and a quick put-back to put the Warriors up 80-62 with 9:11 to play.
The Nuggets failed to score for nearly six minutes during the stretch. But they rallied with 13 straight, held the Warriors scoreless for almost five minutes and gave the fans in Oakland reason to worry.
After the Warriors went back ahead by nine, they nearly collapsed again. Wilson Chandler stole the rebound from Green for an easy layup to get within four, Iguodala hit another from long range and Kenneth Faried made 1 of 2 free throws to bring Denver within two with 32.4 seconds to play.
Iguodala stole Thompson’s pass on the ensuing play. Chandler’s running layup rimmed out, he missed a put-back and then knocked the ball out in a scrum — a call that stood after a video review and had the Nuggets questioning whether the ball ever bounced out.
“They made the call. The refs make mistakes,” Nuggets guard Andre Miller said.
The Nuggets were forced to intentionally foul Jack, who made both free throws to give Golden State a 92-88 lead with 7.3 seconds remaining to seal the victory. Miller missed a 3 and Faried clanked a meaningless jumper as the buzzer sounded, touching off the emotional celebration.
The Warriors advanced to the second round for the first time since 2007, when the “We Believe” team upset top-seeded Dallas in similar fashion — at home and in Game 6. Golden State lost to Utah in the second round that season.
“To finally get it done, it’s kind of a hazy feeling,” Curry said. “Just a sense of relief the way the game finished.”
Golden State seemed to have an answer for everything Denver threw its way in this series.
Even All-Star forward David Lee made a surprising return — “part of it was for inspiration,” Jackson said — for the Warriors after not dressing the previous four games with what the team had called a season-ending hip injury. He grabbed one rebound and missed one jumper in 87 seconds off the bench in the first quarter.
Bogut’s big first half — 10 points, eight rebounds, four blocks and two assists — allowed the Warriors to erase a nine-point deficit, and they sliced Denver’s lead to 42-40 at the half behind a late surge of shooting from their guards on the perimeter.
Faried, the target of Jackson’s accusations of “dirty play” in Game 5, picked up his fourth foul with 10:23 to play in the third quarter. Three of those fouls came in the first 1:37 of the third before Nuggets coach George Karl took him out.
Soon after, Curry took control to send the Nuggets home for good.
NOTES: Aaron Hern, an 11-year-old from nearby Martinez, who was injured in the bombings during the Boston Marathon, attended the game with his family and was honored on the videoboard during the first quarter. ... The Warriors are 10-1 in home playoff games in which they had a chance to win the series since moving to the Bay Area prior to the 1962-63 season.