On a night where the Denver Nuggets, who had just nine available players, had every reason to roll over and take a beating from the Golden State Warriors, they collectively said “To hell with that!” and put a beating on Golden State instead. Nikola Jokic recorded his second career triple double, but it was Juancho Hernangomez who stole the show, playing the best game of his life and jump-starting the shorthanded Nuggets to a victory. Juancho finished with a game high 27 points and 10 rebounds.

The Nuggets came out focused and ready to play, showing no signs of being undermanned or any fear of facing the best team in the league. Steph Curry drained his first jump shot and it seemed like it would be one of those nights, but Will Barton got off to a hot start as well, making a few buckets with his penetration. The Warriors continued to struggle from the field and just like that the Jokic-Juancho connection came out of the blue and took over and scored consecutive buckets. Denver’s energy on defense was contagious as they forced turnovers and converted on the other end of the floor.

On offense, the Nuggets simply could not miss. Juancho hit a three, Jamal Murray came on and hit a three, shooting his arrow before dropping his defender on a backdoor cut for an easy layup by way of Jokic. Even Jameer Nelson was hitting his shots. The Nuggets led by 15 at one point, as only Kevin Durant could muster any offense for the bad guys. After one, Denver led 42-30 and Juancho Hernangomez was the game’s leading scorer with 11 points.

The second quarter might as well have been a preview for this weekend’s Three-Point Contest, but instead of the normal cast of Steph Curry and Klay Thompson, it was the Denver freaking Nuggets lighting it up. Juancho, Jamal, Jameer, Mike Miller (yes, he’s alive and well), Garris and Barton all caught on fire and could. not. miss. There’s really nothing else to say about the second quarter. Just go back and watch it. At halftime, Denver was up by 25 points, had made 16 three-pointers while shooting 70% from deep and had five players in double figures. Juancho had 17 points, and Jokic was sitting pretty at 6-13-8. Unreal. Even more unreal? Denver 79, Golden State 54.

The second half started with a Curry airball, a Barton three, and a whole lot of Kevin Durant. The Nuggets looked pretty flat as KD and JaVale McGee chipped away at the lead. Barton had a sick reverse dunk, then Jameer hit a three to keep Denver up by 20. A few minutes to loosen up their legs was all the Nuggets needed as Murray and each Nelson hit threes followed by a HUGE Juancho dunk. The only way the third quarter could have ended better was if Jokic finished it with a triple-double. OH WAIT HE DID. Nuggets 107, Warriors 85.

The Warriors bench unit brought the intensity in the fourth, and it caught the Nuggets off guard. Golden State chipped away and Denver was tentative, turning the ball over and playing lazy basketball. Harris got stripped and missed two free throws on the next possession, then Patrick McCaw and Damian Jones scored to bring the lead down to single digits. Jokic wouldn’t have any of it, as he led the Nuggets on an 8-0 run in response to the shenanigans pulled by Golden State. Juancho added some icing to the cake by hitting some heat check threes and this thing was over. Nuggets win 132-110.

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Game Notes and Takeaways

  • This was the most important win of the season. And it’s not even close. What else needs to be said other than that with just nine active players, Denver dominated (for the most part) and outplayed a team with four All-Stars? The Nuggets needed a win like this for so many reasons. To prove to themselves that they are capable of doing great things. To show they ARE a playoff caliber team. And to FINALLY prove to all the casual fans/radio hosts around town that this is a team worth getting serious about. Seriously. There are no more excuses for not following this team or showing support.

After tonight, there is no reason stuff like this should be happening at Pepsi Center:

  • JUANCHO EN FUEGO. This kid is a freaking rookie and he lit up the Warriors. 27 points. 6 of 9 from three. Outstanding performance and coming out party, and what better way to do it than against Golden State. He was the driving force behind this win, and that’s saying something given that Jokic just recorded a triple-double. I don’t want to stir the pot a whole lot, but this game just made another European forward on the team a lot more expendable.
  • Jokic is still unbelievable. Dude posted his second career triple-double and he made it look so effortless. 17 points, 21 rebounds and 12 assists. Unreal. Absolutely unreal.
  • Threes on threes on threes. Did I hear that right? Denver tied the NBA record for most threes made in a game, with 24. Beautiful. Overall, they finished 60% from deep, while the Warriors (who supposedly are really good at shooting threes) shot just 25%. Golden boy Steph was 1 for 11.
  • All is forgiven, Jameer. I’m far from the biggest Jameer Nelson fan, but after the game he redeemed himself 110% for any dumb shot or turnover he’s made late in the game. Ally Sturm asked him how important the crowd was for the team tonight, and he basically said the Nuggets fans and not the other fans there (you know, the 16,000 “Warriors” fans in attendance) helped them out a lot. Get outta here. Go Nuggets.

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