The Denver Nuggets came out with no energy tonight and were absolutely mauled by the Golden State Warriors 127-108. The score was closer than the actual game indicated. Stephen Curry scored 22 points, dished out 11 assists, and was a plus-44 in the plus/minus department. Kevin Durant put up 25 points of his own, and the Nuggets starters were a no show.
The Nuggets started their normal quintet, featuring Jamal Murray, Gary Harris, Wilson Chandler, Paul Millsap, and Nikola Jokic. The Warriors started their normal five as well with Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green, and Zaza Pachulia. The team came out extremely flat, with both of the Nuggets star bigs making mistakes. The Warriors roared out to a 10-2 lead before a quick timeout from Michael Malone. Things didn’t get much better after the timeout, with both Thompson and Durant heating up from all over the floor. Denver struggled to stay attached to the Golden State shooters in the first quarter, but they settled down a bit when the bench unit came into the game. Mason Plumlee and Will Barton each made an impact on both ends initially, but six turnovers during the quarter killed any momentum Denver had. The Warriors led 36-23 after the first quarter.
Jokic, Kenneth Faried, and Malik Beasley checked in, and the Nuggets fought back in the second quarter, beginning with a 10-0 run. The defensive rotations were sound, and Denver attacked in transition, culminating in this sweet alley-oop from Beasley to Faried.
Denver kept the pressure on, outscoring the Warriors 21-3 to start the second quarter. Faried was simply everywhere on both ends, Mudiay was making a huge impact, and the defense held true. Faried had ANOTHER alley-oop dunk, this one a poster on Omri Casspi.
Golden State continued to fight back though, shooting very well from the perimeter and making the Nuggets pay when they forgot to rotate. Curry got hot for a bit, and Thompson continued to fill it up from the perimeter. Denver fell behind again 60-55 at the half but within striking distance.
In the third quarter, the Warriors again leaped out in front on a 16-2 run. All of the energy from the first half was lost, and the starters were getting worked. As a result, Malone removed every single one of them at the 8:04 mark in the third quarter. Things did not get better, as Plumlee and Mudiay combined for a turnover and Curry drew a four-point play. Curry hit another three, and run was up to 27-8 Golden State.
The Warriors shot and made a lot of baskets. The Nuggets decided playing ping pong with the basketball would be more apt instead. I don’t feel like writing much more about the third quarter than that.
The fourth quarter featured lots of garbage time. I liked what I saw from Trey Lyles, while Mudiay and Barton continued to score and facilitate well off the bench. Beasley struggled as a defender, Murray came back in and was up and down before getting a quick hook, and Richard Jefferson saw significant playing time. Good for him. The Nuggets eventually lost with the final score
The starters were horrible. It’s hard to come out hot with a lot of energy against the best team in the league after playing the night before. That said. Harris and Chandler were minus-36 and minus-37 in 20 minutes respectively. They shot 2/9 from the three point line and allowed the Warriors starters to shoot 15/30 from the same distance. They were outscored by 39 points from behind the arc. Not great, Bob.
Kenneth Faried needs to find more minutes at Mason Plumlee’s expense. Denver’s bench kept the Nuggets close in this game, and Kenneth Faried was a huge reason why. His energy and effort on both ends created highlight plays and tide-changing impact. Along with the two highlights above, Faried played the passing lanes, met Jordan Bell at the rim for a block, and he made the right play every time. Plumlee hasn’t played badly, but he limits Denver’s lineup flexibility to go small. Faried allows Denver to play fast, and all of the Jokic-Plumlee minutes for at the least the next few games should be given to Faried-Jokic lineups in my opinion.
Paul Millsap has been turnover prone in the paint. Four turnovers tonight for Millsap. So far in the first ten games, Millsap has four games with at least three turnovers. That can’t happen. With as much as Jokic handled the ball and generates turnovers of his own, Millsap needs to be smarter in his takes to the rim. Fumbling passes, dribbling off his feet, these are unforced errors that need to be cleaned up, even for a 12-year veteran.