Behind a signature Stephen Curry performance in the Mile High City, the Golden State Warriors have won their last three road games by a considerable margin and were on the cusp of a historic franchise streak. Never before in Warriors history has the team won three consecutive road games by 20 points or more, and thanks to a Richard Jefferson three on the last Denver possession, that streak remains unbroken.
Records aside, the Warriors were visibly locked in to start the game, and played as if they were responding to a loss in San Antonio. The starters ran up a quick lead against the Nuggets, but a stagnant bench offense combined with the energy of Denver super-subs Will Barton and Kenneth Faried forced the Warriors to try and win the game again, and they did just that. Let’s get into a quarter-by-quarter breakdown.
All-business. That was the vibe that exuded from the starters as they ran up a double-digit lead early and forced former Warrior-assistant-turned-head-coach Mike Malone to burn two timeouts to stabilize his young squad. A shot of the Warriors’ starters resting on the bench illustrated this attitude, as they all sat eyes facing forward silent, silent, and eager to return to the game.
The quarter wasn’t dominated by any one player, as the combined efforts of the starters and JaVale McGee helped lift the Dubs to a 13 point lead by the end of the quarter. Klay Thompson opened with a scorching four of four from the field and would score ten of his total 15 points in the opening frame. Draymond Green opened up the night with a top-of-the-arc three and was aggressive in going to the rim and forcing Paul Millsap to play defense. On the other end, Green smothered the former-Hawk, and Millsap finished with just six points on 37.5 percent shooting for the night.
Stephen Curry put on a passing display, finishing with seven assists in the quarter with just one turnover. He found McGee on three consecutive possessions, including what is being described as a shot-fake pass that dropped smoothly in the rolling center’s hands. The move by JaVale McGee to finish the possession was not easy; after the catch, he had limited runway under the hoop and no clear window to the rim for a dunk, so he opted for a finesse running layup that got the job done.
If it ain't broke, don't fix it pic.twitter.com/lyCrz75zBJ— GoldenStateWarriors (@warriors) November 5, 2017
Watching McGee finish these lobs with thunderous dunks from any angle is endlessly entertaining, but these emerging finesse moves, including another floater earlier in the game, are a testament to the Warriors’ player development staff and McGee’s own increased confidence in other parts of his game. 1st Quarter Final Score 36-23
It would not be a 2017-18 Warrior’s game without some drama and that is just what the second quarter provided. After establishing a thirteen-point lead after the first twelve minutes, the Dubs were well positioned to expand the deficit and create plenty of garbage time opportunities for the lower end of the depth chart. That result would eventually arrive, albeit more circuitously due to a meltdown that saw the Nuggets go on a 21 to three run to take a five point lead mid-way through the frame.
How did this happen? A major turn around like that has many contributing factors, but I would highlight one in particular; the Warriors’ bench unit of Green, Thompson, Andre Iguodala, David West, and Patrick McCaw could not score on multiple possessions, leading to a “positive feedback loop” situation (a term coined to the best of my knowledge by Danny Leroux) for Denver. A positive feedback loop is usually a staple of Warriors play and they specifically target three defensive stops as the benchmark.
Forcing shut outs on one end helps score on offense. A lineup with no MVPs, as both Steve Kerr had opted to keep both Curry and Kevin Durant in to close the first, relies on heavy passing and cutting to find shots. ISO possesions from Thompson, Iguodala, and West did not produce fruit and even well-run sets could not help break the drought. A defensive focused lineup like the one Kerr trotted out to start the second quarter will find difficulties in digging in when they go scoreless for four minutes at a time. Curry and Green’s entry into the game marked the start of another Warriors run, this time ten points to at least salvage part of the lead into halftime.
A quick word on Kenneth Faried, who to the best of my knowledge is the only player left from the 2012-13 Nuggets squad that surprised the league with their no-superstar play and squared off against the Warriors in the first round that year. Faried was one of the igniters of the Denver run. He finished plus 12 in 13 minutes of playtime and displayed his characteristic energy on several highlight possessions, including a back-breaking block on Jordan Bell and poster on Omri Casspi. Faried is a player that, through no fault of his own, has fallen into irrelevancy in the modern NBA. The Manimal was a league darling just several years ago, for his NCAA records, energized play, and stints with Team USA. Life comes at you fast. 2nd Quarter Final Score 65-60
The second-half offered a chance for the Warriors’ starters to enter the game refreshed and try to win this game for the second time. One particular player worth mentioning is ZaZa Pachulia. I am personally biased against Pachulia for no particular reason other than I think he is slow and clumsy, and I would much rather see McGee catch impossible lobs and finish with authority than watch the Georgian center trick off layups at point blank range. That all being said, I have to admit he had one of his best regular season performances as a Warrior and was a critical part of the win.
Pachulia finished +27 in just 14 minutes and made high-IQ decisions all game long. He held his ground against Nikola Jokic and largely shut down the Serbian phenom. On the other end, he played one of his best offensive games, including one particular sequence where he went coast-to-coast for a layup.
I would be remiss not to mention Kevin Durant who ultimately finished with a game-high 25 points on 69 percent shooting from the field. His balanced contributions across the stat sheet, with seven rebounds, seven assists, and two blocks were tempered only by four turnovers. His highlight play in my opinion was a lead pass to a cutting Draymond Green threaded between three Denver defenders, though there was plenty of other film to draw from.
The third quarter produced the most consistent stretches of Warriors ball movement and team defense I have seen so far this season. For six minutes to open the quarter, the Warriors moved the ball on a string, passing up good shots for great shots, all the while locking in on the other end. This “positive feedback loop” produced a 19 to 4 run in the first half of the frame.
While the team was visibly a little more tired in the second half of the third quarter, Kerr opted to keep Stephen Curry and that decision produced dividends. He would score 15 in the third, including two four-point play opportunities. Curry would finish the night an insane +44 in just 29 minutes of playtime, and would not re-enter the game after his electric third quarter. Third Quarter Score 103-76
The majority of the fourth quarter was garbage time, like so many Warriors’ fourth quarters in the past several years. No starter played after the 7:30 minute mark, offering a lot of opportunity for the deeper rotation players to get some burn. Kerr adjusted his rotation a bit as well, not wanting to leave anything to chance, and had Kevin Durant open the frame to ensure that at least one MVP was on the floor at all times.
David West opened the fourth quarter like someone who wanted to get back to the bench and ice. He provided some early offense, scoring seven points in a minute, including the rare West three. Nick Young’s shooting woes continue, as he finished the night just two for seven from the field, making one of his five attempts from beyond the arc. The former-Laker was engaged defensively, collecting two steals and staying in front of his mark. Like the Ian Clark-Patrick McCaw, or Ian Clark-Justin Holiday minutes battles from years before, the Nick Young- Patrick McCaw will be one to watch.
Newly-acquired Richard Jefferson saw some limited playtime for the Nuggets, and his entry into the game marked 26 players entering the game. Jefferson, a much maligned former-Warrior (Aside: my personal distaste for Jefferson starts with the San Antonio playoff series in 2013, but if you think about it, if Jefferson hits those free-throws against the Spurs, and Warriors win the series, Mark Jackson probably gets extended that summer and the team never pairs with Steve Kerr. Interesting “What if?” situation) single-handedly stopped the procession of history as a last-minute three prevented a franchise record three consecutive road wins by twenty or more points. Even as a washed 13th man, Jefferson can still find ways to frustrate Warriors fans, truly a talent. Final Score 127-108
Who’s your Warriors Wonder against the Nuggets
This poll is closed
Stephen "Sky ‘breaker" Curry
Zaza "almost 3 in the key on a fastbreak" Pachulia
Klay Thompson, esquire
Omri "I’m here if you need me" Casspi
Draymond "don’t forget about my +33" Green
Other (answer in comments)