The Denver Nuggets didn’t have their A-game, but they still had enough to slide by the Warrior 108-105. Nikola Jokic scored 35 points to go along with 13 rebounds, 5 assists and 3 steals, but needed a double-double from Aaron Gordon, 17 and 8 from Michael Porter Jr. and a very-welcome 20 points from newest starter Reggie Jackson to get the victory. Steph Curry hit 6 threes for his 23 points but missed all of his 2-point shots including a crucial one in the final minute, and balanced scoring (six players in double figures) couldn’t quite get Golden State past the champs. The game was a rough, ugly slog, but those are the ones you want to win and Denver got it done late.

Game Recap

The Warriors won the tip and Klay Thompson buried a free-throw line jumper. Jokic hit a step-through in the paint over Kevon Looney, then Reggie Jackson buried a 3 for Denver. Good defense turned over Thompson and Jokic flipped up a shot for an early 7-2 lead. Aaron Gordon hit two free throws and a mid-range jump shot, but then both teams missed several threes (Jokic alone missed 3) as the offenses stagnated. MPJ finally hit a three for the 14-5 lead, answered by Thompson. Porter then swished this corner 3 off some lovely ball movement:

Mike missed a step-back but then scored in transition off a steal, then Jokic backed Saric down for a bucket after Saric got a put-back on the other end. AG missed a layup but MPJ put it back with a one-handed jam for a 23-13 lead. The last 2 minutes went the way of the Warriors bench however, outscoring Denver’s 8-1 to finish the quarter and leaving Denver’s lead at 26-21 after one.

Reggie hit a three and missed another at the start of the second, but the Warriors closed the gap to just 1 with a Thompson three. Braun hit a deep shot, MPJ assisted Jackson on a drive, then finished a baseline cut with a for a layup and a 36-30 Nuggets lead. Jackson had a nice block for a turnover, but Steph’s first made three-pointer over Jokic tied the game at 36. Jokic made a layup but missed 2 threes, while Gillespie made a deep ball to keep Denver ahead. Steph nailed a deep ball and AG hit a reverse jam as the teams traded blows to end the quarter. Jokic finally made a three, and forced in a put-back after some non-foul calls got him (and coach Michael Malone) heated, but Steph’s last minute 3 kept the Warriors down only 6 to Denver at the half, 53-47.

Jokic started off the third quarter scoring for Denver with a pair of buckets around the rim, but Klay Thompson answered with a 3 over Aaron Gordon. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope made a pair of buckets, Steph threw in his fourth 3 and a couple of free throws, and Steve Kerr got a technical foul for arguing with the refs that KCP made for a 64-60 Nuggets lead. Gillespie made a nice pass to Jokic for a layup, but Wiggins made the same on the other end. The two teams traded buckets in a weirdly-ugly game – Jokic in the paint, Jonatham Kuminga and Chris Paul pull-ups. Nikola did what he could with 29 points through three quarters but the Warriors led by a bucket, 78-76 going into the fourth.

Chris Paul opened the scoring with a three, answered by an MPJ block and then a Porter 3 from the corner as the shot clock expired. MPJ then got a second block that led to a Reggie Jackson finish in transition and a quick timout from Kerr. Porter curled out to the arc for another three, but Curry answered. Gordon hit a tough bank shot, then blocked Curry at the rim. KCP had a traditional three-point play (if the bucket actually being a goaltend counts) answered by Chris Paul, who then got a steal on Gordon when Jokic came back in the game at the 7 minute mark with Denver up 92-89.

Denver started feeding Jokic inside even as the Nuggets struggled to stop the back-cuts on Curry pick-and-rolls. KCP had a silly take foul on Curry but Denver clung to a one-point lead at 99-98 with under four minutes to go. Jokic made foul shots, Jackson hit a runner, but a Looney bucket cut the lead back to one. Jackson took a Jokic assist in for a score, and Aaron Gordon got a crucial final-minute rebound to put Denver up 5, 107-102. Thompson missed a three but Jokic had an unusual turnover that led to a Curry three, and then Nikola missed both free throws to leave the door open for the Warriors with 14.6 seconds left. Steph Curry missed his own jumpshot as the Hall of Fame closers for each team misfired, and Reggie Jackson made one of two shots at the foul line. Golden State couldn’t get a final shot up and the Nuggets escaped with the 108-105 win.

Three Things

The Nuggets look like they need rest, and they’re about to get it. Face it, the squad is tired with 7 games in 11 nights, and they paid it off by going 6-1. Everything tonight was sloppy. The Nuggets missed 20+ shots in the restricted area, were out-rebounded by a Warriors team missing Draymond Green, and generally looked like they were moving in molasses. But they fought hard, and scored and defended just enough. The Warriors were tired too at the end of a road trip and the Nuggets leaned on their home court and eked out a win. Celebrate the win – they all count – and be glad Denver now has 4 days until their next game.

Denver cannot go full bench with Murray out for a while. Malone tried it in the first half and it cost them most of the hard-won starter lead immediately. He rectified it swiftly, but it meant that Denver never really found their rhythm as starters shuffled in with the bench almost randomly and no one was quite sure of their role. Julian Strawther and Collin Gillespie missed defensive rotations, and nearly every member of the bench was out of sorts as the Warriors bench out-scored them 42-12. But the non-Jokic minutes were only a -3, which was a huge deal in getting this victory. Rotations have become more comfortable, which will help everyone know their role, but tonight the mix-and-match approach in the late stages paid off.

Reggie Jackson came up big. His 20 points and some late finishes to salt away the win were a big deal tonight, not to mention his 6 assists on a night where no one could shoot. It makes the bench rotations tougher, but Reggie filled in admirably for Jamal Murray tonight on a night where Jokic was not going to be able to secure the win by himself.