Sometimes you’re the hammer, and sometimes you’re the nail.
The Nuggets welcomed the defending champion Golden State Warriors into Pepsi Center in a game that would test to see how the Nuggets measured up against the undefeated and record setting Warriors. Spoiler alert: they didn’t measure up very well at all. Despite fighting very hard in the first half and showing a lot of grit and effort throughout the game, the Nuggets just weren’t able to keep the Warriors from tying the NBA record of 15 straight wins to open the season, losing 118-105.
Kenneth Faried was unavailable for tonight’s game due to an injury to his ankle. Nikola Jokic and Darrell Arthur got the start in the front court but allowed three straight points in the paint to start the game. The Nuggets defense tightened up after that point, and the game stayed fairly close throughout most of the first half. The focus and attention to detail was especially sharp in the opening frame and the Nuggets looked like a team that was ready to come out and give the champs a run for their money. After the Warriors pulled away toward the end of the 1st, the Nuggets rallied back in the 2nd and took a 51-50 lead with just over two minutes to go. However, the Warriors ended the half on a 14-7 run and led 64-58 at the break.
The Nuggets continued to battle in the 3rd quarter. Darrell Arthur in particular was crashing the boards, contesting shots, and keeping the Nuggets within striking distance. Emmanuel Mudiay caught Steph Curry with a nice crossover stepback 3-pointer early in the quarter and added nine total points in the quarter, including an impressive and encouraging drive to the basket against Festus Ezili.
So we gon sit here and act like Steph Curry ain't just get crossed? pic.twitter.com/q7Yj561Cj5— NBA Bulletin (@TheNBABulletin) November 23, 2015
The Nuggets hit a bad stretch toward the end of the middle of the quarter. One two possession stretch in partcular was damning as Gary Harris missed a pair of open 3-pointers that could've cut a seven point lead down to four. The Warriors capitalized on the Nuggets' missed opportunity, Harrison Barnes putting down a ferocious dunk on one of those possessions. What could've easily been a four point game became an 11 point game and the Warriors never looked back.
Head coach Michael Malone, who appeared to be searching for unconventional lineups, placed Barton at power forward for a stretch to end the 3rd and start the 4th. The results were not positive. The lead ballooned up to 19 by the midway point in the quarter and the remaining seven minutes or so were just a formality. The Warriors won both the 3rd and 4th quarter en route to a 112-98 win.
Faried was listed as questionable all the way up until right before tipoff and in the pregame presser, head coach Michael Malone said that he really hoped Faried would be able to provide a few minutes to help the already shorthanded Nuggets compete. It’s unfair to read too much between the lines but after calling out the team for last Friday’s loss to the Suns, it is a bit curious that Faried missed the game with a surprise injury. Faried wasn’t even on the bench for this game and while it may be that he was receiving treatment, it was still an odd absence. It's important to give him the benefit of the doubt but it is certainly something to keep an eye on.
Darrell Arthur is in the rotation
After missing most of the preseason games, Darrell Arthur has slowly become one of Malone’s favorite players and a mainstay in the rotation. Tonight he was one of the bright spots, scoring 21 points and providing a ton of energy fro start to finish. JJ Hickson recorded less than 10 minutes in this one. After saying last Friday that guys who don't play hard won’t play, the curious absence of Faried and the short leash with Hickson may indicate Malone’s willingness to sacrifice competitiveness at the expense of finding out who will play hard for him. Darrell is a guy who’s effort is almost never questioned and tonight he was quite possibly the best Nuggets player on the floor. Malone said of him, "Darrell Arthur is probably one of our hardest workers and he does that (works hard) every single day."
The game fell off of the rails at the end of the 3rd quarter when Malone went with a lineup of Emmanuel Mudiay, Jameer Nelson, Randy Foye, Barton, and Darrell. That is quite possibly the smallest lineup in Denver Nuggets history and it was not a successful one. Again, it appears as though Malone is sending signals and since Nikola Jokic needed to rest, Malone elected to go miniature sized rather than play Hickson a single second in the late 3rd and 4th quarter. That lineup wasn't the only thing to blame. There were far too many empty possessions on offense and on defense, Jokic in particular, struggled with containing pick-and-rolls. He is young and the defensive timing on pick-and-rolls, especially against a team as smart and as talented as the Warriors, requires perfect timing and positioning. Jokic was lacking that tonight and as a result, Draymond Green and the Warriors were able to get open on the perimeter. far too often.
Mudiay looks so much better than his stats— Ethan Strauss (@SherwoodStrauss) November 23, 2015