Does it get any sweeter than that? I mean seriously, that's about as good as it gets this season. In what can only be described as a massive upset, the Denver Nuggets stunned the Golden State Warriors 100-99 on Kenneth Faried's game-winning jump hook with 00.5 seconds left.
The Manimal's first career game-winner (I think) came after Stephen Curry scored four straight points, including a driving scoop shot with 4.7 seconds left to take a one-point lead. After Nuggets coach Brian Shaw called the team's last timeout, Foye inbounded to Faried at the top of the key. Faried faked a hand-off back to Foye, backed down Draymond Green to the free throw line then turned to his right and dropped in the last of his 18 points on the night.
That the Nuggets were even in the game was thanks to the Herculean effort of one Timofey Mozgov, who went off for 23 points and 29(!!!!!) rebounds, including 9 offensive rebounds. The 29 rebounds were an NBA-season high and by far the most rebounds Mozzy has ever collected in a game. In my preview I predicted he would outplay Andrew Bogut, but this was an evisceration. Bogut had only 4 points and 8 rebounds and was essentially rendered invisible by the outstanding play of the Mozgod. His frustration was evident as he resorted to his typical cheap shot tactics in a takedown of Mozgov near the end of the game.
How unlikely was this victory? Let's see... the Nuggets were coming off a game in Denver the night before, with only nine healthy players, playing in what is generally considered to be one of the toughest environments in the league against a rested team looking to clinch a playoff spot. They Warriors were favored by 12.5 points. The Nuggets trailed by 20 in the first half, committed 16 turnovers, missed seven free throws, and shot 37.5 percent for the game.
So how did they do it? One word: rebounds. The Nuggets slaughtered the Warriors on the glass, 63-38. Denver had 25 offensive rebounds to a mere six for Golden State. Some of that can be attributed to David Lee's absence, but Mozgov was on another level tonight, gobbling what seemed like every missed shot. And thanks to Denver's tired legs, there were plenty of them on the Nuggets side of the court. Faried was no slouch on the glass either, grabbing 17 boards (8 offensive) himself, including two huge offensive rebounds with less than a minute to go in the game.
The Nuggets also played gritty defense, forcing the Warriors into tough shots and contesting most everything at the rim. The Warriors coughed it up 13 times themselves and only shot 6-23 from three-point range. The Nuggets were 10-34 from deep on the night. Curry had 24 points and Klay Thompson had 21, but Curry didn't get going until late and Thompson did most of his damage in the first half. They each shot a fairly inefficient 8-19 and aside from Curry's late near-heroics didn't really take over the game at any point.
It looked like Denver was dead in the water when Thompson hit a three in the second quarter to put the Warriors up 20. A timeout from Shaw led to an 11-point run for Denver, who would head into halftime down a manageable 53-43. The Nuggets would keep chipping away in the third quarter. Quincy Miller and Evan Fournier, who were scoreless in the first half, combined for four three-pointers and the Nuggets trailed by only two at the end of the quarter. The tension in ORACLE Arena was palpable.
It took a little while but the Nuggets finally took their first lead of the game on a three-pointer from Darrell Arthur. The lead eventually grew to five at 90-85, but Golden State went on an 8-0 run. Randy Foye, who struggled shooting the ball this game after his magnificent performance the night before, hit a layup, forced a turnover on Thompson, and made a three-pointer from the baseline to give Denver the lead again and set the stage for Faried's dramatic finish.
I am still in disbelief that Denver came back and won this game. It's a huge win for Shaw, who has his troops playing hard to close out this season instead of tanking for a better draft pick. The Nuggets had every reason to give up and call it a night after they were trailing big. That they didn't shows this team has pride and should give fans reason to believe that this might only be a one-year absence from the playoffs.
Game Obsevations -
- Guess whose name I didn't mention in the recap? That's right, Iggy, better known as Andre Iguodala. This is because Iggy was a non-factor for the night. If he hadn't destroyed poor Quincy Miller on an undeniably nasty crossover, you would never have known he played this game. He had 6 points on 2-6 shooting, 4 rebounds, and 3 assists. Iggy also had an airball on a wide-open three-point attempt with the game close in the fourth quarter. I guess maybe he played good defense? Not good enough, apparently.
- Iggy's crossover was admittedly ridiculous, but the guys on TNT at halftime were hyping it up like it was one of the best plays of the year. He didn't even finish on the play, as he was fouled before he had a chance to. I think Golden State has a preoccupation with trying to make really slick, streetball-esque moves and it sometimes gets them in trouble. Sometimes it's easier to do a bounce pass instead of going behind-the-back. Instead of an aesthetically pleasing but insanely difficult crossover stepback, how about a drive to the bucket or a pick-and-roll?
- Mozgov shot an airball three with less than a minute to go and the Nuggets up by two. TNT broadcaster Marv Albert made his disgust with the play evident, but Faried grabbed the offensive rebound and was fouled. He made one of two free throws to put Denver up three.
- I always love when Mozgov gets the post-game interview. His answer to David Aldridge about how he was able to be so dominant on the glass? "I love rebound."
- One more note on Mozgov's rebounds: the 29 boards were the second-most in a game in Nuggets history. Dikembe Mutumbo and Spencer Haywood each had 31-rebound games.
- Foye only shot 7-23 and 4-13 on three-pointers, but he had 20 points and 7 assists. He was clutch at the end of the game and is now in second-place for most three-pointers for a Denver Nugget in one season with 183.
- The other member of the TNT broadcasting crew, Reggie Miller, said Denver's best offense all night was missed shots. It was hard to argue with that.
- If sports betting were legal, I may have gone to a website and placed a bet for the Nuggets on the money line. It may have been a +650 payout, and I definitely probably would have yelled and been extra pumped up after Faried hit his game-winner. If it were legal, of course.
- Arthur, Fournier and Aaron Brooks really struggled to shoot the ball tonight. Arthur was 4-15, Fournier was 3-11 and Brooks was 3-14. Fournier in particular seemed to miss a lot of wide-open shots that could have tied the game or given Denver the lead. However, all three players had their moments throughout the game and contributed to the victory.
- I took some screenshots of ESPN's homepage on my computer during the game. They had the Nuggets-Warriors game as the main story, but their sub-headline said the Warriors were cruising by the Nuggets, even after the Nuggets had taken a five-point lead. It was like that until about five minutes remained in the game.
- What does Mark Jackson do during timeouts besides give out meaningless platitudes and mindless coach speak? His team was clearly struggling against a team they were heavily favored against, and instead of telling them what to do specifically, he just talks about playing "our brand of basketball." Sometimes there are several long pauses where he doesn't say anything. He never gives instruction, and I believe it's because the man lacks X's and O's. I would have liked TNT to have listened in on some Shaw timeouts so we could know what he said to get the Nuggets back on track.
- Faried's game-winner is my pick for top Nuggets moment of the season. Foye's game-winner against the Clippers is second, and the win against Miami is third. This is bigger than the Miami win because it came without Lawson or Chandler.
- Yes, the Manimal did travel on that last play, but it wasn't the most egregious non-call I've ever seen.
- The Nuggets only dressed nine players, Jan Vesely fouled out in 13 minutes, and Anthony Randolph still couldn't see the court. He may never escape the doghouse.
- Vesely managed to get back-to-back lane violations while Jermaine O'Neal was shooting free throws. Not sure I've ever seen that before.
- Once again, I just want to say thanks for reading. This was an excellent way to end my recapping for the season. I'm grateful for the opportunity to write about the Nuggets and I hope you enjoyed my contributions this year. Let's see what a healthy Nuggets team can do next season!