In a preseason matchup that saw both teams playing their starters for most of the first three quarters, the Nuggets showed that they have the talent and determination to hang with anybody in this league. The Warriors came out with all of the swag and confidence of a team that just won an NBA championship, hitting pull-up threes and making incredible plays in the half court.
Early in the first quarter, Steph Curry ripped the ball right out of Emmanuel Mudiay's hands and finished a 16-foot floater in Mudiay's eye on the other end giving the Warriors an early 8-2 lead. The Warriors would continue to make big, momentum building plays throughout the first quarter but for every punch the Warriors threw, the Nuggets had an answer, cutting the lead to just four points at the end of the 1st.
The reserves kept the game close for the early part of the 2nd quarter and when the starters came back in with just over 7 minutes to go, they managed to turn a 5-point deficit into a 4-point lead going into the half. They would never look back.
The Nuggets really tightened up their defense in the 3rd quarter and held the Warriors to just 17 points. The lead ballooned to 16 entering the 4th behind 12 3rd-quarter points by Kenneth Faried. The 4th quarter was mostly a formality as both teams went to their benches.
The Manimal looked like his old self tonight, scoring on cuts to the rim, offensive putbacks, and even knocking down a handful of mid-range jumpers. He had the full repertoire going tonight on offense but it was his unmatched hustle and effort on both ends that set him apart. Faried finished every single play with all out effort and managed to be effective on defense even though he was often placed in the center spot, guarding the larger Andrew Bogut and Festus Ezeli. The Nuggets only rarely ran plays through him and when he caught the ball on offense, it was usually for quick ball reversals at the free throw line. Nonetheless, Faried was able to have a huge impact on the offense by rolling hard to the rim and making quick, smart decisions on offense. It was probably the most impressive and encouraging game Faried has played in over a year.
And one! https://t.co/gp2owAyICl— Kayla Osby (@nuggetchica) October 14, 2015
It's unfair that Mudiay has to guard so many great western conference point guards and tonight he got to try his hand at chasing around Steph Curry. But unlike the first preseason game against Chris Paul, Mudiay was able to remain in control for most of the game, keeping Curry in check and even guarding Draymond Green in the post on a few possessions, holding his own. Mudiay's learning curve has been impressively steep through four preseason games and he has managed to cut his turnovers down from 15 in the first two games, to just 4 in the last two games. He's clearly adjusted to playing more in control yet he is still finding spots to be aggressive, getting into the paint and finding cutters for nice assists around the basket.
Another great pass by Mudiay https://t.co/YFinbXBNlz— Kayla Osby (@nuggetchica) October 14, 2015
- Michael Malone elected to start Wilson Chandler, Danilo Gallinari, and Faried in the front court. It was a super small ball lineup and it was great to see the three highest paid players on the roster share the court together. I think it is safe to assume that Malone saw a lot of things to like from this trio.
- The small ball lineups provided a unique versatility and the Nuggets used that versatility to switch every screen. Gallo routinely found himself out on an island against Curry but managed to hold his own enough to make Curry's isolation attempts inefficient.
- The pace of the game was incredibly fast. The Warriors were the fastest half court offense last season and the Nuggets did a great job of turning defensive stops into transition opportunities.
- Coach Gibson Pyper created a phenomenal diagram and video of a nice set that the Nuggets ran in 2nd quarter which got scores on three straight possessions. The set got Gallo sprinting to set a ball screen before "peeling" toward the baseline. The team got 3 different looks on 3 possessions for a total of 7 points (it would've been 8 had Faried made the and-1 free throw).
- JJ Hickson continued to find himself out of the lineup. He logged just 4 minutes and was -6 in those 4 minutes. Say what you will about his skill but the biggest thing that sticks out is his lack of explosion. He has gotten his shot blocked a LOT this preseason, several times in embarrassing fashion. The fear of Hickson stealing minutes from younger players like Nikola Jokic and Joffrey Lauvergne might not be an issue at all since Hickson has been much worse than either of those guys thus far.
- Earlier this year, on January 19th, the Denver Nuggets left Oracle Arena on the receiving end of a 122-79 butt-kicking, one of the most lopsided losses in team history. It was the 3rd straight loss and part of the beginning of a stretch that would see the Nuggets lose 19 of 21 games. Just 4 nights after the 43-point loss, Ty Lawson was arrested for drunk driving. In short, the last time the team was in Oracle Arena, things were as bleak as they had ever been for the franchise. What a difference a few months can make!
- Check out the box score below and Jason Kosmicki's interview with Malone after the game.