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Recap: Nuggets starters take the Warriors to school, deep bench throws it away as Nuggets lose to Golden State 129-128

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The Nuggets had this one under control with a great effort through 3+ quarters, but the bench gave it away after the starters were pulled and the young Nuggets could not pull it out in the end.

The Golden State Warriors weren't sharp from three early but their kids could not be stopped late as they stole victory from the jaws of defeat and pulled out the 129-128 win.  Steph Curry had 22 points, and Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson added 19 and 17 respectively, but Patrick McCaw was the hero with 18 points through the 4th quarter and overtime to seal the one-point win.  Danilo Gallinari led Denver with 19 points and Nikola Jokic had a double-double with 14 points and 10 rebounds.  Emmanuel Mudiay left the game with an ankle injury that appeared more of a precautionary move than a serious one but otherwise it was a quality effort from the starters even if the deep bench made a mess of the 4th.

The radio broadcast missed the first minute of the game, so the coverage didn't start until the score was 5-4. Mudiay, Barton, Gallo, Jokic and Nurkic were the starting lineup, which is encouraging if you want to see the Nuggets take a giant lineup seriously.  Gallo and Durant exchanged threes early but Golden State led early 16-1. From there the Nuggets got experimental.

Jokic and Gallo offset Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson’s 20 combined points in the first quarter. The Nuggets had 5 turnovers in the first but were able to get space and find ways to attack the Warriors.  Denver had trouble early with Golden State's transition game but did much better in the half court with most of their starting unit. Faried, Murray and Hernangomez checked in with under 2 minutes to go in the quarter, and an immediate Manimal dunk and putback closed it to 34-31 Warriors after one.

The Nuggets still had trouble stopping Golden State from scoring in the early part of the second quarter, but were intent on keeping up. Murray hit a 3 early in the second and Wilson Chandler dunked on a fast break to cut the lead to 2. Mudiay and Gallo came back in and immediately had a give-and-go that resulted in points for Gallinari. Nurkic and Draymond Green were going at it hammer and tongs with Nurkic giving Green all he could handle, and both Nurkic and Jokic kept the glass clean with 11 rebounds between them in the first half. Either Denver's defense or Golden State's cold shooting kept Denver close as the Warriors only had 20 points in the second after 34 points in the first. Mudiay and Nurkic worked well together for both getting space and second chance points, and the Nuggets stretched their lead to 5 at the end of the second, 59-54.

The Warriors came out of the half gunning from 3, taking three straight and making 2 to cut the lead to 61-60. Gallo had a beautiful pass to Jokic and Barton retaliated with a three of his own as Denver refused to back down, though. Nurkic kept making his points off of Mudiay's misses, and Gallo lit it up from 3 again. An alley-oop from Gallo to Barton put Denver up 11, 77-66 as Denver threw haymakers in the third. Mudiay made a sick reverse layup but came up limping and left the game for good with an ankle sprain. Jokic got his 4th foul and had to sit while Golden State crept closer at 77-72. Denver wouldn't give up the lead, though, as Gallo hit a tough two and Murray led a fast break that ended in a Faried dunk. Curry finally started warming up with free throws and made threes, but couldn't quite close the distance. Murray assisted a Faried shot to finish the period and the Nuggets finished the quarter up 89-85.

Old favorite JaVale McGee got some court time and began with the poor shots and turnovers just as it looked like Golden State was going to finally retake the lead early in the fourth. But Murray's rebounding hustle and Chandler's tough inside and outside game pushed the lead to 98-88 on a great tap-back pass from Chandler to Hernangomez for the dunk. Both teams picked this point to explore their benches as 15th man competition began in earnest. The deep bench really hurt the Nuggets with unfocused basketball at that point and turned a 15 point laugher into a nail-biter down the stretch before they finished blowing that lead.  Jamal Murray's three-point dagger with just 11 seconds remaining was matched by Patrick McCaw to tie the game with 1.1 seconds to go and put the game into overtime.

In the OT frame the Nuggets could not find a way to stop McCaw, who pushed Golden state to a 4 point lead halfway through the frame. Stokes and Murray both flashed hard in overtime, but it was coming up short until two missed free throws by Phil Pressey gave Denver life at 127-126.  A Murray-to-Stokes pick-and-roll gave Denver the lead with 3.5 seconds remaining, but McCaw would not be denied and hit the buzzer beater to give Golden State the 129-128 victory.  That's about as serious as a preseason game can get.  The penultimate play would have been a nice finish, though:

Three Thoughts:

1) Gallo and Jokic together is a lot to handle. Jokic's foul trouble kept him from being quite a effective as normal but he still earned his double-double in just 23 minutes. Gallo had 19 points in 26 minutes. The Warriors eventually had Durant take Jokic out to the perimeter to try to take advantage of the difference in their athleticism, but Jokic held his own. Once he gets the silly fouls of youth under control, Denver’s two best players looks like they’ll fit together perfectly on the court.

2) Faried's energy is a difference maker off the bench. Malone kept his hockey shifts in effect with a long break for his starters, keeping most of them out more than half of the second quarter. But with Faried's hustle and Murray's shooting the second unit kept things moving and stayed step for step with the Warriors. With a team this deep that has shooting in the starting lineup and off the bench these full-shift rotations might actually work this year. Faried and Hernangomez together was a full-hustle lineup but they both looked for each other with passes as well, which was bit of a surprise.  The Faried-at-backup-center look has been a good one for Denver, though, and exploring that the rest of the preseason should pay dividends.

3) The kids are still all right. The blown lead was not a good look, but all the young players looked good when playing with the vets.  Murray was playing like his hair was on fire early on, just flying around the court (it was the end of the game when he tried to do too much and didn't wind up doing enough). Hernangomez was good on the glass and zipped some nice passes when he wasn’t sprinting the break. Nurkic is a beast that no one on the Warriors could properly contain when he wanted to get somewhere. Jokic did Jokic things and Mudiay ran the offense well even if he still struggled to score before his ankle injury. Beasley is obviously not ready but he’s a Will Barton in the making, and even a guy like Jarnell Stokes showed he might make the team with his ability to snag those rebounds and function as the emergency center. If Denver has too many guys to effectively play this year, at least Malone will have a ton of options - all of whom will continue to get better.  And after he's done chewing them out for blowing this game I'm sure they'll have a laundry list of things to work on.

Bonus: The Nuggets might not be taking the best care of their fans with their lack of useful preseason coverage, but they still get some things very right.

Very classy, Nuggets. Well done.