The Denver Nuggets returned home after a 2-1 road trip to face the former juggernaut Golden State Warriors. They were able to build an early lead behind Jamal Murray’s scoring while Nikola Jokic turned in another masterful performance as the key to the offense and secured his fifth triple-double of the season. Stephen Curry was his usual spectacular self on the Warriors side. Unfortunately for Curry, there wasn’t much help while the Nuggets played their most complete game of the season. Denver controls the game pretty much throughout and earns a 114-104 victory.

Bol Bol got his second straight start and opened the game with an insane block on James Wiseman. On the Warriors side it was all Curry early on who hit his first four shots for nine points. Bol continued to play well along with Paul Millsap, who was raining threes, to give the Nuggets a small early lead. The Nuggets were unable to stay more than a point or two ahead though because Curry continued to not miss. For whatever reason Golden State did not keep feeding their superstar with the hot hand and no one else was scoring for them so the Nuggets lead finally started to grow. Denver had no trouble getting buckets of their own, by the end of the first quarter they held a 37-24 lead.

The bench was strong for Denver out of the gate in the second, particularly P.J. Dozier who was slashing to the rim with authority. The Warriors bench also found a little life and responded to the Nuggets scoring which kept the lead around ten. The Nuggets offense went cold midway through the quarter and let Golden State slowly start to climb back in it. Jokic checked back in and calmed things down a bit before Curry converted a 4 point play keeping things close. With three minutes left in the half Jokic picked up his third foul and had to sit with the Nuggets up eight. The Nuggets held strong without their star with the half winding down. The Warriors also went ice cold to close the half. By the time it was over the Nuggets were back up by eleven.

Both defenses were refocused to start the second half and baskets were tougher to come by early in the third quarter. Jokic was the exception, he asserted himself early and often to score Denver’s first six points of the quarter. The Warriors made another push after that, which was highlighted by a signature ridiculously long Curry three. The Nuggets were up to the task of keeping with Golden State but struggled to string together baskets. This meant Denver kept the Warriors at arm’s distance but also far too close to be comfortable with the way Curry was playing. Jokic switched from scoring to orchestrating to end the quarter, he tallied his seventh assist in the game by hitting Facundo Campazzo in the corner for a quarter ending three. After three it was Denver 90, Golden State 76.

Jokic started the fourth on the bench and the Nuggets offense stalled. Golden State took advantage. They trimmed the lead to eight and forced Michael Malone into a timeout to bring back in the starters. It immediately paid dividends with Will Barton converting a four point play. The quarter was playing out much like the game had: Curry and his bag of tricks vs Jokic and his bag of tricks. It was clear that Jokic just has more help. Despite a phenomenal game from Curry, Joker had an answer every time down the stretch and got support from guys like Barton and JaMychal Green. Curry was pretty much playing 1 vs 5 with the fourth quarter half over and it wasn’t enough to keep the Nuggets lead from growing. Still, they weren’t home free with three minutes to go after some lackadaisical play let Golden State get within eleven. Ultimately though it was too much Jokic. Joker grabbed a couple more boards, scored a couple more points and closed it out for the Nuggets. Denver wins 114-104.

Three things I noticed

Best matchup: Jamal Murray vs Steph Curry

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The guards did not disappoint tonight. Murray was big for Denver early on while Jokic was being consistently double teamed and carried the scoring load along with Millsap in the first quarter. He took a back seat to the Jokic show in the second half and cooled off from the floor but he still came up with some timely buckets and also played solid defense. Meanwhile Steph was incredible as always. He showed a little of everything tonight whether it was the deep three, the floater off the glass, the dribble moves, the nifty passing (and yes, the falling down after every three), it was all there. It’s a shame that Klay Thompson has been derailed by injuries, you almost feel bad for Curry being as good as he is on a team that clearly won’t compete for a title…almost.

What stood out: active hands

The Nuggets finished the game with eleven steals but it felt like even more than that. They were very active defensively, particularly when it came to disrupting the passing lanes. There had to be at least three separate occasions where three separate Nuggets players flat snatched a lob pass right out of the air and turned it into a fast break the other way. Defense has been a struggle for this team thus far and while the Warriors, outside of Curry, aren’t exactly a collection of scoring dynamos like they used to be, it was still a really impressive defensive performance.

Closing thought: they played four quarters

Without a doubt the most complete game the Nuggets have played this season. Four minutes into the first quarter they took a 14-13 lead and they never trailed again. Golden State had a number of times when they made a push to get back in it and never really let the Nuggets get too far away but at the same time Denver had a response for every push the Warriors brought. The game really was never in doubt, even in the fourth when Golden State cut the lead to eight. It was a refreshing change of pace in what is an otherwise frustrating up and down start to the season.