Nuggets Stave Off Late Rally from Stephen Curry and Co, Warriors lose 100-98.
After a thrilling win over the Utah Jazz, the Golden State Warriors (2-0) flew to Colorado to take on the Denver Nuggets (2-0). The Warriors were looking to build off the momentum of an incredible comeback win in order to extend their season-opening win streak to three games. The Nuggets were on the second night of a back-to-back, but in the first night they beat the Phoenix Suns behind Nikola Jokic perfect triple double (31 points on 11/11 shooting with 12 reb, 11 ast). Shaun Livingston was sitting out of the game, but Andre Iguodala made his return to the lineup after leaving the Opening Night game with a leg injury. In this matchup of undefeated teams out West, the Denver Nuggets won 100-98.
Both teams hit the ground running in the first quarter, and they were just running up and down the court while making shots almost exclusively from inside the three-point line. The Nuggets had the upper hand in the first few minutes, and jumped out to a 6-2 lead, but the Warriors answered back with some nice inside baskets from Damian Jones, a push shot from Draymond Green, and a tough layup from Kevin Durant to get the lead back. Klay Thompson hit two mid range jumpers in the opening minutes as well, and when the first timeout of the game was called with 6:14 left in the quarter, the Warriors led 12-10. The Warriors got going after the timeout with a free throw from Draymond Green, an incredible putback dunk from Kevon Looney, a fast break slam from Andre Iguodala, and the Warriors were just suffocating the Nuggets with their defense. Stephen Curry made the team’s first three with just over three minutes to play in the quarter, and the Denver Nuggets called timeout. When timeout was called with 3:04 left in the quarter, the Warriors were leading 20-13 and holding the Nuggets to just 2/17 shooting from the field. Stephen Curry was fouled shooting a three after the timeout to get the Warriors rolling again, he then made a layup in transition to force another Nuggets timeout with 2:00 left in the quarter and the Warriors winning 25-13. Mason Plumlee threw down a dunk for the Nuggets after the timeout, but that was the only real action that happened until the end of the quarter. The Warriors held the Nuggets to just 3/23 shooting from the field, but sent them to the free throw line 16 times so the Warriors lead after the first quarter was 25-17. Stephen Curry had eight points to lead all scorers while Nikola Jokic had five points to lead the Nuggets.
The Nuggets started off hot in the second quarter with a quick 5-0 run thanks to a three from Gary Harris and a mid range jumper from Trey Lyles. The Nuggets were right back into the game and forced Steve Kerr to call timeout with 10:35 left in the quarter. Jonas Jerebko stopped the bleeding with a free throw line jumper after the timeout, and he was then fouled while taking a three, and made all three free throws to get the lead back to eight. The two teams then went back-and-forth playing some stellar defense and drawing a lot of free throws for the next eight minutes. The Warriors still weren’t shooting the ball particularly well, but Stephen Curry converted on a four-point play for their second three of the game, and they were scoring in other ways (primarily drives to the hoop). The Nuggets were heating up, the Warriors were still giving them gifts in the form of turnovers and fouls, and that allowed them to make it a one-point game when Steve Kerr called timeout with 2:31 left in the half and the Warriors leading 44-43. Neither team got anything going after the timeout, and the Warriors managed to hang onto their lead heading into the half. The Warriors offense was definitely stagnant in the first half, and they weren’t doing themselves any favors. At the half, the Warriors led the Nuggets 49-47.
The leading scorer for the Warriors in the first half was Stephen Curry, who had 12 points on 3/9 shooting. Kevin Durant was close behind with 11 of his own on 4/11 shooting. The Nuggets mirrored the Warriors with their top scorers as Gary Harris had 12 points and Nikola Jokic had 11. As a team, the Warriors shot a combined 41% (16/39) from the floor and 18.2% (2/11) from three. The Nuggets combined to shoot 32.6% (15/46) from the floor and 17.6% (3/17) from three. The real differences between the two teams were with turnovers and free throws. The Warriors committed 12 turnovers to the Nuggets’ two, and the Nuggets took 26 free throws (and only made 14 of them) while the Warriors went 15/19 from the line).
The first six minutes of the third quarter were just absolutely brutal for both teams. Neither side got into any sort of rhythm offensively and were missing more wide open looks than I could count. Klay Thompson did make two nice mid range jumpers but missed several other open threes as his offensive struggles continued. Kevin Durant (who picked up a technical foul out of frustration) and Stephen Curry were both struggling, Steph even airballed a three that hit Damian Jones in the face. The Nuggets were struggling just as much as the Warriors, but were being kept afloat by Gary Harris. Harris had 21 points by the time the first timeout of the quarter was called with 5:53 remaining. The score was tied at 61 at the time of the stoppage. The Nuggets got off to a 12-4 run before a timeout was called. The Warriors just couldn’t get anything going offensively and their defense was beginning to slip, so with 2:57 left in the quarter the Nuggets had a 73-65 lead. The end of the quarter was just as brutal as the beginning and middle were for the Warriors. The Nuggets outscored them 7-5 and they found themselves down 10 points heading to the fourth quarter. There was some silver lining though as Steph made his third three of the night to get the Warriors to 70 points. The Warriors combined to shoot 41.9% (26/62) from the floor and 15% (3/20) from three through the first three quarters while Denver shot 40% (28/70) from the floor and 22.2% (6/27) from three. Gary Harris had 23 to lead the Nuggets while Stephen Curry had 19. After the third quarter, the Nuggets led 80-70.
Klay Thompson made his first three of the game and second of the season to get the scoring started in the fourth quarter. His three cut the lead to seven points and forced a timeout from Denver with their lead at 80-73. The Nuggets were still hot and making shots when they needed to, and oh boy did it look like they needed to. They needed to start hitting shots because the 2016 Unanimous MVP found his rhythm from three, hitting three in a row and cutting the lead to six points while injecting life into his team. The Warriors were playing hard defensively and just needed to find their rhythm around Steph on the offensive end to be able to do some damage. The Warriors called timeout after cutting the lead to six points, and with 5:20 left in the fourth, the Nuggets led 93-87. Klay Thompson threw down a dunk after the timeout to get the scoring started, but Gary Harris continued to will the Nuggets to the finish line by hitting another tough and-1 shot, but he missed the free throw. KD then forced his way to the line, where he went 2/2. Nikola Jokic got to the line and missed both his attempts, because he flopped to get there and the ball don’t lie, and the Warriors were down 4. Timeout was then called on the next possession after Jokic committed an offensive foul, and the Nuggets were leading 95-91 with 3:31 to play. Klay got a layup to fall after the timeout and the Warriors were down by two, but Jokic responded in the post to make it a four-point game again. Steph then got a tough runner to fall off the glass, two-point game but not for long. Andre Iguodala threw down a dunk in transition and the game was tied with 1:29 to play! The Nuggets called timeout with the score tied at 97. Klay committed a foul coming out of the timeout to send Gary Harris to the line, where he went 1/2 but the Warriors turned the ball over on offense. The Warriors then forced a miss, but couldn’t score again, and the Nuggets were at the line with a one-point lead and 11 seconds left. Paul Millsap went 1/2 from the stripe and the Nuggets had a two-point lead, but the Warriors had 11 seconds to tie or take the lead. Draymond Green got fouled, he went 1/2 from the line, and the ball was knocked out of bounds and the Nuggets had possession. The Warriors fouled Jamal Murray, who went 1/2 from the line, but the game ended as Damian Jones got blocked on a potential game-tying lay-in. The Denver Nuggets beat the Golden State Warriors 100-98.
The Warriors finished the game shooting a combined 45.6% (36/79) from the floor and 24.1% (7/29) from three. They committed 18 turnovers and 29 personal fouls, so all things considered, they had no business winning this game. Stephen Curry was the game’s leading scorer, finishing with 30 points on 10/23 shooting with six assists and four rebounds. Kevin Durant added 20 points on 7/19 shooting with 11 rebounds and seven assists. Klay Thompson had 15 points on 7/16 shooting with seven rebounds, and Kevon Looney added 10 points off the bench.
The Denver Nuggets ended the game shooting 40.7% (35/86) from the field and 18.8% (6/32) from three. They also got to the charity stripe 42 times and only hit 24 of those shots. They committed only eight turnovers and barely hung on to beat the Warriors despite their terrible game. Gary Harris was their leading scorer with 28 points on 11/20 shooting, and was the main reason that the Nuggets got the win thanks to his hot shooting in the second half. Nikola Jokic had 23 points, 11 rebounds, and six assists. The Nuggets had some nice other offensive contributions off the bench, mostly from Mason Plumlee who had 11 points on 4/6 shooting.
This was not a good game for the Warriors, regardless of what the final score says. They somehow managed to hang around despite fouling the Nuggets on damn-near every possession. They couldn’t shoot or generate much offense outside of the end of the game, and all-in-all this was just a brutal game to watch. This was just one game though, and while the Warriors lost and aren’t 3-0, they still showed how potent they can be on an off night against a good team.
The Warriors should bounce back nicely against the lowly Phoenix Suns tomorrow because night’s like tonight are rare in their world. The Nuggets are now 3-0 though, and they sit atop the Western Conference.
The Golden State Warriors play next on Monday, October 22, at home against the Phoenix Suns at 7:30 p.m.