For about a quarter and a half of tonight’s game it looked like the Denver Nuggets would go toe-to-toe with the Golden State Warriors. Jokic was having his way against Kevon Looney, and aside from a quick outburst from Klay Thompson, Denver was keeping the Warriors at bay and growing a small lead.
Then, in a span of just under four minutes, Golden State went on an 18-4 explosion. The Nuggets wouldn’t sniff the lead again.
Led by Jordan Poole in his playoff debut, Golden State’s new “death” lineup of Poole-Steph Curry-Klay Thompson-Andrew Wiggins-Draymond Green took it to Denver in that span. Poole scored 14 of his 17 first half points in the second quarter and was nearly perfect from the field. Curry was held scoreless in the first quarter for the first time since 2013 coming off the bench but he cracked the scoreboard off a goaltend and then drained a three to end the half and put the Warriors up 11.
Poole finished with a game high 30 points, shooting 5-for-7 from three, and Thompson chipped in 19 from five threes of his own. Steph had 16 in his return from a month-long injury.
Jokic did just about everything he could but even he wasn’t elite enough as Denver will need to have a chance. He had 25 points, 10 boards and six assists but it took him 25 shots to get there. Uncharacteristically inefficient.
And as was par for the season, Jokic received minimal support from the rest of the lineup. Will Barton had a decent statline inflated from fourth quarter garbage time - 24 points - but when the game was within reach had some head scratching possessions and horrible defense, including leaving Poole wide open for three on occasion. Aaron Gordon was no better, forcing jumpers and suffering defensive lapses resulting in Warrior layups.
The Nuggets tried to chip away in the third quarter to no avail, and the fourth quarter was all garbage time.
Still a lot of basketball left to be played, but certainly not an encouraging way to start the series for the Nuggets. The Nuggets can’t really ask more of Jokic, but if the team collectively can’t get it together this will be a short series. Denver has such little margin for error and the effort tonight didn’t reflect that at all.
Game Notes and Observations
- The different coverages the Warriors threw at Jokic were interesting. 1v1 against Looney, then Draymond, then they would mix up and start doubling. For the most part it didn’t matter.
- Even more interesting was how Golden State, especially with Draymond at center, drew Jokic out of the paint on defense and got him defending switches and running around. Jokic was absolutely gassed by even the third quarter.
- Jokic was hacked to death and only got 2 free throws the entire night. Not surprising from a Scott Foster crew.
- Austin Rivers did a good job on Curry in the first quarter, preventing him from even getting a shot off. But, Poole absolutely cooked Rivers basically the entire second quarter.
- Non-Jokic minutes still have trouble scoring. Took them nearly six minutes to make a field goal in the first/second quarters and it came off a Bones goaltend. The bench had a really good stretch to start the second quarter though and only went -2 in that span, so not all is lost.
- Bones had a good stretch in his first stint but didn’t see the floor again til the game was out of hand. Thought he would’ve gotten more burn, especially after Malone’s pre-game comments.
- The Nuggets aren’t going to magically be able to guard the wings and perimeter. Against Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and now Jordan Poole that’s a scary thought.