The Denver Nuggets were fresh off a five game road trip. Their reward for the arduous time away from home? A match up with the Golden State Warriors. In fairness, the Warriors were in a bit of a slog themselves as they were subject to the dreaded second night of a back to back coming from the west coast. Didn’t matter. A slow start would doom Denver early, and Stephen Curry continued to show why he’s the greatest shooter on the planet. Curry wouldn’t have to do it alone though as Klay Thompson and JaVale McGee (you heard me) also had big nights to earn the Warriors a win on a game that for most teams would be an instant schedule loss
The game started off on the wrong foot as the Nuggets allowed a Kevin Durant offensive rebound, a wide open Draymond Green three and followed that up with a turnover. It was a harbinger of things to come unfortunately. The Warriors were playing very Warrior like ball, utilizing screens and ball movement to free up shooters, who converted at a high rate. Denver couldn’t keep up, going ice cold from the field themselves which the Warriors turned into a 17-2 run. Denver finally stopped the bleeding with some free throws but unfortunately the Nuggets could not control their turnovers on offense and continued to lose guys on defense, including Curry, which resulted in a 38-19 lead for the Warriors after the first quarter.
Jusuf Nurkic opened the second quarter working inside on the smaller David West and the Bosnian Beast was able to find some success while Jamal Murray and Kenneth Faried provided a spark off the bench. Denver also tightened up their defense to start whittling down on Golden State’s lead. It wouldn’t last, the Warriors got some solid play from their bench, particularly from Shaun Livingston, as the quarter turned past the half way point and their lead quickly rose to twenty points. When the Nuggets starters came back in they had more success than they did in the first quarter and were able to get on a 10-2 run to close the gap to a more manageable margin before the teams traded baskets down the stretch of the first half resulting in a fourteen point lead for the Warriors when the second quarter came to a close.
The Nuggets opened the second half just like they opened the first, turning the ball over (multiple times) and leaving Golden State’s shooters wide open from beyond the arc or allowing them easy buckets in the lane. The Warriors really weren’t playing all that spectacularly, but the Nuggets were playing so poorly that they couldn’t keep Golden State from expanding their lead. With seven and a half minutes left in the third Curry converted a four point play which sparked another Warriors run and before anyone knew it Golden State's lead was up to twenty-six. Denver’s bench checked in around the five minute mark and they brought some energy but at that point Curry was full supernova, making his trademark ridiculous threes, so it was a futile attempt. So futile in fact that Malik Beasley made a rare appearance in the third quarter and converted his first basket as an NBA player, then followed it up with another, both threes. It was all for naught though, and the Warriors finished the third with ninety-nine points on the board and a twenty-four point lead.
Beasley kept his hot shooting going as the fourth quarter started and quickly had ten points in just five minutes of play. Coach Malone committed the fourth to the bench and Denver got some of the most spirirted play they had all night. Juancho Hernangomez, Jamal Murray and Beasley, aka The Baby Bunch, made the most of thier opportunities as each of them scored in double figures. Yet, in the midst of all of this there was still wide open shots to be had for the likes of Thompson, Durant and Livingston. Durant finally checked out with just under six minutes to go, he scored eighteen points which ended his seventy-two game streak of scoring at least twenty points per game. With five mintues to go both roster's were in full garbage mode and eventually the final horn sounded mercifully with a 125-101 Warriors win.
Best match up: N/A
There’s no one on the Nuggets who deserves to be considered part of a great match up tonight. Gallo had a decent night scoring and Nurkic brought a few powerful dunks but the theme of the night was Curry, Durant, Green and Thompson who all got into double figures scoring early. Hell even McGee went off on the Nuggets. Curry especially made Denver look silly. The Nuggets inexplicably left him open far too often and Curry had no problem converting those open looks to points. Once Denver started trying to defend him it was too late.
Main thing I noticed: This was bad Nuggets tonight
The things that haunted Denver all last season were apparent throughout this game. Turnovers ran rampant and the Nuggets looked equally as lost on defense, especially when it came to covering shooters from beyond the three point line. As we’ve seen too often this season, the Nuggets are prone to poor starts and while you might be able to battle back against the Toronto Raptors or the Portland Trail Blazers, a team as talented as the Warriors is just going to bury you and that’s exactly what they did. On a night where the Nuggets should have been the more crisp and aggressive team they were anything but.
Closing thought: The silver lining? Juancho, Murray and Beasley looked pretty good
Hernangomez, Beasley and Murray got to see regular minutes tonight and they looked pretty darn good. Hernangomez didn’t try to do too much, buried some good looks from beyond the three point line and mainly just hustled his ass off. Beasley got in on garbage time and quickly flashed his range, converting two quick threes, and continued to make the most of his opportunity on the offensive end. Murray continued to show his early scoring troubles this season were a bit of an anomaly. It’s play like Juancho, Murray and Malik’s tonight that the fans have to focus on. The Nuggets are not the Warriors, not even close, but just like Golden State did, they are building their team through the draft. When this uber young roster comes up against a powerhouse like Golden State they are going to take their lumps, but as long as the young guys keep improving, eventually it’ll be the Nuggets handing out the beat downs.
Box score via ESPN.com