The Denver Nuggets came into Oakland to play the Golden State Warriors on tired legs. Fortunately, the Warriors too had tired legs as both teams were playing on the second night of a back to back. The result was an incredibly poor game of basketball littered with bricks and turnovers. The other result was a massive win for the Nuggets. Behind a group effort and incredibly staunch defense they pull off the shocker and beat Golden State 96-81.
The game didn’t start out great for Denver as just a few minutes in Mason Plumlee dislocated his left pinkie finger. Luckily Mase, the tough SOB that he is, got it popped back into place, taped up and kept on playing. In terms of the actual basketball being played. The Nuggets hung tough early with neither team converting at a very high rate. Klay Thompson in particular was struggling early on. Denver took advantage and worked a lead early on after a 9-0 run. After a Golden State timeout they got the benefit of a couple of ugly Nuggets turnovers and quickly got the game tied back up. A Kevin Durant free throw at the 5:34 mark put the Warriors back in front 10-9. The game continued to look like a matchup of two teams who played the night before as the first quarter headed towards a close (lots of bricks). Denver’s bench continued to hold serve as the quarter ended and the Nuggets led 22-20.
Jokic opened up the scoring for the Nuggets in the second quarter which gave him ten points on the night already. Meanwhile, Thompson was finally finding his range for the Warriors which kept the game close. Despite some improved shooting on both ends, the game was still extremely sloppy. On more than one occasion one team would turn the ball over just to get it right back as their opponent did the same thing. Denver started to get some separation, but a poor read on defense by Jamal Murray and an ugly turnover by Barton that resulted in a Patrick McCaw and one had the Nuggets lead back down to two. The Nuggets did start to focus more on getting into the paint, likely very conscious of their troubles with jump shots and tired legs. Using that strategy they pushed right back and went on a 11-0 run, largely at the hands of Gary Harris, to get the lead into double digits for the first time. Denver held an eleven point lead going into the final minute of the half which Murray extended to fourteen after knocking down three straight free throws. Durant would get an easy slam right before the half but the Nuggets still led by twelve after two quarters.
The pass.— Denver Nuggets (@nuggets) December 24, 2017
The lead. pic.twitter.com/GwD4tgnSEh
The second half didn’t start well for the Nuggets. Jokic had a careless turnover and Green turned it into an and one on the other end. Denver was fighting to keep their big lead but it was difficult due to the defensive pressure they were receiving from Golden State. Additionally, the Nuggets were making little mistakes, giving up offensive rebounds, getting balls knocked out of their hands etc. Slowly but surely, the Warriors were chipping away. To the Nuggets credit, they were not going to give up the lead easily and there defense tightened up as well. Much like the first quarter, the main theme of the third quarter was tons of missed shots on both sides. The Nuggets were able to get just enough baskets, or create just enough turnovers, to keep the lead right around ten. At the three minute mark Plumlee’s finger was dislocated again and he had to head to the locker room. The teams traded baskets (or missed shots/turnovers) down the stretch and Denver still led by eleven after three.
The 4th quarter opened just like the game had gone all night: ugly. The big highlight was Andre Iguodala moling his way to a wide open dunk but being rejected by the rim. Denver kept the pressure on and after a Murray three pushed the lead out to sixteen, coach Steve Kerr was forced to take a timeout. The Warriors came out of the timeout still looking disinterested in winning the game meanwhile Harris made a ridiculous layup where he switched hands mid air. Despite the big lead, there was still plenty of time left and the Nuggets hadn’t pushed the game out of reach yet with seven minutes to go. Denver was struggling on offense even worse than Golden State was and it very much felt like they were just hanging on despite being up double digits. Finally as the game went into the final five minutes the Nuggets started to string together some shots. First Chandler with a back door cut that results in a dunk, then an offensive board by Jokic for a putback, followed by a Harris mid range jumper. Suddenly, with just over three minutes to go Denver’s lead was 17. The fans headed to the exits, the reserves checked in and the Nuggets finished off their most impressive win since, well, the last time they beat the Warriors.
Gary Harris is crazy underrated as a finisher at the rim. pic.twitter.com/3CKbfJtUcP— Michael Gallagher (@MikeSGallagher) December 24, 2017
Best matchup: Kevin Durant vs Wilson Chandler
KD is going to get points, there’s no way around that, and tonight he led the Warriors in scoring again. However, Wilson made sure nothing was going to come easy for the superstar and at the end of the game KD only put up 18 on the scoreboard. Wilson also was able to figure out early that his jump shot wasn’t falling so he switched it up to start attacking the basket where he found success. Ultimately, nobody played exceptionally well tonight but Chandler was the most consistent for Denver. Without his effort there’s little chance the Nuggets win this game. It’s good to see Ill Will string together some good games. There’s no bones about, he was not good the first two months of the season, but he’s been strong as of late and if he can keep it going then the Nuggets are just that much better.
Main thing I noticed: back to backs are garbage
What a terrible product the NBA put out tonight. This game felt like college basketball with all the turnovers and missed shots. The Nuggets are one of the more exciting teams to watch in the NBA and the Warriors are THE team in the NBA but tonight was anything but good basketball. While the Association has done a better job of limiting these kind of scenarios, tonight was a perfect example of why they need to be eliminated altogether. Sure, the playing field was evened by having both teams on the B2B but we still got left with a sub-par game. I feel bad for everyone who purchased a ticket tonight. Wait a minute, they were Warriors fans, I take that back.
Closing thought: what a west coast swing
Despite this game being uglier than all get out, bottom line, it’s a W against the best team in the league in their house one day after a W against a division rival in their house. If I had told you the Nuggets were going to get double digit wins on back to back nights at the Moda Center and Oracle Arena you’d likely have told me about some beach front property in Kansas you wanted to sell me. Is it the be all and end all of the season? Of course not, but you have to believe this is a huge confidence boost for this team and proof that they can play against anyone in any situation. Exciting stuff ahead Nuggets Nation.