In front of a record crowd at Pepsi Center on Saturday night, the Denver Nuggets outlasted the All-Star barrage by the Golden State Warriors to win 115-108. Will Barton led the way with 25 points, and Jamal Murray overcame a minor thigh injury early to help propel Denver to its second big win in a row.
Denver won the tip, but less than two minutes into the game Jamal Murray went down with a right quad to contusion on a missed drive. And so, with Mudiay in for the time being, the Nuggets tried to match the prolific shooting of Golden State. Klay Thompson and Will Barton exchanged baskets on multiple possessions (a theme for the first quarter), but the Warriors were able to produce a 10-0 run behind hot shooting. Fortunately Murray came back into the game, and just in time for the Warriors to start cooling off. Barton led all scorers with 13 after one (Thompson and Curry had 12 and 10), and Golden State led 32-29.
The Nuggets small ball lineup of Mudiay, Harris, Chandler, Lyles and Darrell Arthur really struggled to start the second quarter, but ultimately got it together and went on a huge 11-0 run to put Denver up six. Durant went on a 6-0 run of his own as Denver’s weakside defense was non-existent. Curry tried to get fancy on Jamal, who picked his pocket and hit Barton for an easy dunk. The rest of the first half was kinda hectic, with a lot of missed shots and turnovers. But it remained a close game as the Warriors led 55-54 at the break.
Jamal Murray is so awesome. pic.twitter.com/OhjMM7ICfy— Michael Gallagher (@MikeSGallagher) February 4, 2018
Golden State, the best third quarter team in the league (ahead of Denver lol), came out and tried to end the game early. The Warrior pick and roll created mismatches and Steph opened the floodgates with Golden State’s first three in 13 attempts. Meanwhile, Denver couldn’t hit anything and the Warriors took advantage in the form of a 17-3 run. Murray stopped the bleeding with a long jumper, and somehow the Nuggets climbed back in it and weathered the storm. After three, they were only down six.
Lyles opened up the fourth with a jumper, and even as Kevin Durant took over for the Warriors the bench unit held the fort down. Trey Lyles was balling, and when the starters checked in with 6:51 left the Nuggets were only down four. Then, the starters put their foot on the gas pedal - Barton hit a three, then Harris was fouled on a three point attempt and made the free throws, Barton hit another three... but against the Warriors, it’s never over.
The two teams traded baskets for what seemed like an eternity, but then Denver quickly slipped away. Barton kept creating offense and Jokic hit a three, and from there the good guys put it away with free throws. What a win!
- I don’t think enough can be said about Jamal Murray’s toughness and desire to win. After he went down with the thigh contusion at the beginning of the game, he went to the locker room, put some ice on it, then came back in and gave it his everything. He hustled on D, was frisky and disrupted plays. He dove for loose balls. Grabbed offensive rebounds. He did anything he could even if his shot wasn’t falling. When it mattered, he drained the free throws to close out the game. What a guy.
- Denver’s bench deserves a lot of credit tonight. The second unit didn’t blow the roof of the building by any means but it always did just enough to keep Denver alive, even when the Warriors looked like they would pull away every time. Lyles remembered how to play basketball after a poor showing on Thursday and put up a double-double. Torrey Craig also showed a lot of effort and made a difference in small ways. Overall, a commendable job by the bench.
- Good Will Barton was in full show tonight. 25 points, and a dominating performance in the first and fourth quarters. His defense was suspect (he was on Durant for most of the night for some reason) but he stepped up when it was anybody’s game. And he made smart decisions late, too.