Warriors Blow Late Lead in the Mile High City, lose 115-108
After beating the Sacramento Kings last night in one of their sloppiest games of the season, the Golden State Warriors (41-11) flew to Colorado to take on the Denver Nuggets (27-25). The Nuggets were coming off of an incredible last-second win over the Oklahoma City Thunder, but would now have to face an even better team. The Warriors were in the second half of a back-to-back, and were looking to have a strong, disciplined performance after turning the ball over 25 times last night. Kevin Durant was coming off of one of his most efficient games of the season, scoring 33 points on 12/27 shooting. The Warriors would be without David West, who was attending the funeral for his friend and former teammate Rasual Butler. Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston would both make their return to the lineup after missing their game last night. The Warriors went on to lose the game 115-108.
In the first quarter, the Warriors came out scorching hot on the backs of the Splash Brothers. Klay Thompson was especially hot, going 5/7 with 12 points, but Steph was close behind with 10 points on 4/7 shooting. As a team, the Warriors shot the ball at a 59.1% clip, while the Nuggets were shooting 42.3%. Klay and Steph weren’t just hot, but they had some great passes and they seemed pretty in sync. Klay hit several impressive shots, including a three during a one on four fast break. This was an incredibly fast paced quarter, in which stoppage time was rare until the end of the quarter, when the refs continued their questionable performance this year and made several questionable calls against the Warriors. One call that was particularly questionable was a travel on Nick Young, who pump-faked a three, and dribbled inside the line, but it was called a travel, and the entire Warriors bench got up to argue with the ref, and it resulted in a technical foul on Steve Kerr. Klay Thompson was the Warriors leading scorer with 12 points, and the Nuggets were led by Will Barton, who had 13 points on 5/6 shooting. After the first, the Warriors led 32-29.
The second quarter was more of the same from both teams. The Nuggets shot the ball a little better than in the first, especially from beyond the arc. They finished shooting the ball at a 39.2% clip overall and 43.8% from three. The Warriors continued to play fast and keep the ball moving, and they were having a good half shooting the ball from everywhere inside the three point line. The Warriors combined to shoot 53.3% overall, but were shooting a dreadful 22.2% shooting, and it wasn’t due to lack of trying, they went 4/18 from three. Kevin Durant got hot in the second quarter though, and finished the half with 13 points, including scoring six straight points at one point. Though the Warriors were able to keep pace with the high-flying Nuggets offense, it was clear that they were exhausted after last night’s game against the Kings. The Nuggets were playing a very solid game in terms of everything except shooting the basketball, which basically means that they were playing pretty good defense. The game was being marred by miscues from each team though, as the Warriors missed several wide open threes, including several potential daggers from Stephen Curry, and the Nuggets missed several layups. At the half, the Warriors led the Nuggets 56-55.
In the third quarter, the Warriors managed to stay ahead, but the Nuggets were able to keep nipping at the heels of the Warriors. At one point, the Warriors built themselves a 12-point lead, but the Nuggets were able to get it back down to just six points. Kevin Durant pulled into the lead for all individual scorers during the third quarter, and had 22 points heading to the fourth. He had some incredible shots in the third, including a mid-range iso jumpshot over a helpless Nuggets player. Steph was close behind Durant with 20 points of his own, three of which came on a nice stepback three. He also had three points on a nice sequence where JaVale McGee blocked a shot and the ball moved all around the arc and back to Steph, who nailed the three. The Warriors three point shooting continued to be below their standards, and they finished the third shooting 25% from beyond the arc. The Nuggets’ leading scorer was Will Barton who had 15 points, and as a team, the Nuggets were shooting 42.3% overall and 38% from beyond the arc. Kevon Looney also played well throughout the entire game, but had a tooth knocked out when he went up for a rebound with less than a minute left in the third quarter, and he had to leave the game. After three quarters, the Warriors led 83-77.
The fourth quarter was marred by several questionable decisions from the entire Warriors roster. That was not the primary reason for the loss though, as the Nuggets simply just outplayed the Warriors down the stretch. In the fourth quarter, the Nuggets outscored the Warriors by 13 points, and hit big shots when they needed them most. They were also the beneficiary of some lucky bounces and questionable decisions. One of the lucky bounces came on a missed dunk by Gary Harris, who missed a dunk so badly, that it basically became a pass to a wide open Nikola Jokic in the corner, and he buried a three to put the Nuggets ahead. Down the stretch, the Warriors lineup featured the usual suspects of KD, Steph, Klay, and Draymond, but there was a noticeable change to the lineup. Steve Kerr chose to use Nick Young instead of a guy like Andre Iguodala or Zaza Pachulia, and the move did not work out. Nick Young decided to put the fate of the game in his own hands, and airballed a three to seal the game for the Nuggets. Not only did he airball the three, but he then proceeded to pick up a technical foul while arguing that he got fouled. The fourth quarter just was not a great quarter for the Warriors, who were very clearly out of gas due to this being one of the roughest back-to-backs that is possible in the NBA, according to Bob Fitzgerald. The Warriors lost the game 115-108.
All in all, this just wasn’t a great game for the Warriors. They were very clearly exhausted, and as Steve Kerr has said, these guys just want to get to the All Star break. None of the starters had particularly great games other than Kevin Durant, who can roll out of bed and score 30+ points on any day of the year. He had 31 points, which led all scorers for the game, while also dishing out seven assists, and grabbing six rebounds. Steph and Klay both started the game off nicely, but fell off down the stretch, and they combined to shoot 15/31 and score 40 points. No one on the bench had a great game, and the only player off the bench who had a real impact was JaVale McGee. He had four blocks, but also had five fouls in just six minutes of action. The Warriors need a break, need to address their bench scoring, and need to put this game behind them.
Now, I could get into some of the questionable decisions made down the stretch, like playing Nick Young over Andre Iguodala, or passing to guys who were covered instead of a wide-open Klay Thompson during crunch time, but I won’t. I think it is best to just flush this game, and move on to the next one. The only real bone I have to pick from this game was the officiating. It has been known that the officiating has been questionable at best this year, and it has caused several feuds between players and officials, and it was more of the same tonight. In the first half, there were many questionable calls made by the officials, and many were made by one official in particular, Ben Taylor. It just seemed like he had something against the Warriors all night, and he ended up calling 13 fouls on the Warriors, as opposed to just four on the Nuggets. Golden State is now 1-3 in games he had officiated, and I am not saying that he is the reason they lost, because the team basically just gave the game away, I’m just saying that he didn’t help.
Some notable stats from this game came from Will Barton, who was the leading scorer for the Nuggets. He is well known for torching the Warriors every chance he gets, and he did it again tonight. He led the Nuggets with 25 points, including several big shots down the Stretch. Nikola Jokic also had a nice second half, and finished with 19 points, three of which came on a three that put the Nuggets ahead for good. KD led all scorers with 31 points, and the next highest Warrior was Stephen Curry, who had 24 points.
The Warriors play next on Tuesday, February 6, at home against the Oklahoma City Thunder at 7:30 p.m.