After escaping Utah with a win on Friday night, the Warriors made their way to the Mile High City to play against the Denver Nuggets. Andre Iguodala would return to the Warriors’ lineup on Sunday night, though the team was to be without Shaun Livingston who was resting with a left knee contusion.
Much like that prior game against the Jazz, the game against the Nuggets was not decided until the closing seconds. This time, the ending was not a happy one for the Warriors. Juancho Hernangomez blocked a Damian Jones layup attempt to ensure the Nuggets’ 100-98 victory, dropping the Warriors to 2-1 early on in the 2018-19 regular season.
Thompson, Durant struggle from three-point range
While the game in Utah was entertaining and fast-paced, filled with great offense and an onslaught of three-pointers, the game against the Nuggets was a much uglier and more defensive-minded affair. Neither team shot well from the field as they both finished the game with field goal percentages under 50%. Both teams also struggled from long distance as the Warriors shot 24.1% from three-point range while the Nuggets shot an anemic 18.8% from beyond the arc.
Two of the Warriors’ most dependable shooters from three-point range, Klay Thompson and Kevin Durant, were noticeably off against the Nuggets. Thompson continued what has been a rough beginning of the season by going 1/6 from three-point range against the Nuggets, scoring just 15 points.
Durant went 0/4 from three-point range on Sunday night, having made a single three-pointer from the ten attempts he has taken so far. Though his three-point shot was off against the Nuggets, Durant still put up a decent box score. Durant scored 20 points, grabbed 11 rebounds and handed out 7 assists in Sunday night’s loss. Two fo Durant’s points came on this play which saw him weaving his way through the Nuggets defense.
KD taking on the entire Nuggets roster pic.twitter.com/7phWGeZkcN— Warriors on NBCS (@NBCSWarriors) October 22, 2018
Through three games, Durant is averaging 6.7 assists per game, a full assist more than his career high in his MVP season of 2013-14. Based on these numbers, Durant appears to be a bit more focused on being a better passer and distributor, something that might be helping to boost the numbers of a fellow former MVP.
Curry carries the load
While Thompson and Durant struggled on Sunday night, Stephen Curry continued his hot start. Curry scored 30 points against the Nuggets, having scored 30+ points in each of the three games to start the regular season.
Though he did scuffle at times in this game (including a third quarter in which he went 1/6 from three-point range), Curry came alive in the fourth. Curry scored 11 of his 30 points in the final frame, including going 3/5 from three-point range.
Because of Curry, the Warriors were able to erase a ten-point Nuggets lead at the start of the fourth quarter and eventually tie things up, giving themselves a chance to win a game that appeared to be out of reach.
Outside of Curry, the Warriors were unable to get consistent scoring from anyone and that, when coupled with their other missteps, prevented them from stealing another road win. Though the team ultimately came up short, it was another impressive performance from Curry who does seem to be playing himself into the early MVP discussion.
Nuggets take advantage of Dubs’ fouls and turnovers
Coming off of an impressive triple-double against the Phoenix Suns, Nikola Jokic came close to another one against the Warriors. Jokic scored 23 points while pulling down 11 rebounds and handing out 6 assists. Many would make the case that Jokic is one of the most overlooked players in the league, including some voices from within Dub Nation.
It’s becoming irrefutable at this point. If you don’t think Jokic is a superstar, you’re not paying attention. https://t.co/rBmXUAJ7PB— Brady Klopfer (@BradyKlopferNBA) October 22, 2018
Gary Harris provided scoring to compliment Jokic’s all-around stellar play on Sunday night, scoring a team-high 28 points. 11 of Harris’ 28 points came in the third quarter, in which the Nuggets turned a two-points Warriors lead into a ten-point advantage of their own. The Nuggets also got nice bench minutes from Mason Plumlee. Plumlee scored 11 points, 5 of which came in that all-important third quarter and giving them a little bit of energy in that reserve role.
The main reason the Nuggets were able to get this win, however, were the miscues of the Warriors, the very same issues that have plagued them through the first three games. The Warriors turned the ball over 19 times against the Nuggets, which resulted in 19 Nuggets points. Fouling was once again a problem for the Warriors, as they committed 29 personal fouls, which marks the second time in three games that the Warriors have had 29 fouls, a number they did not hit once last season.
With all those fouls being called against the Warriors, the Nuggets got to the free-throw line a ton. The Nuggets attempted 42 free throws on Sunday night while the Warriors took just 24. The Nuggets shot 16 free throws in the first quarter alone, making 10 of them. This was vitally important in a first quarter in which the Nuggets went 3/23 from the field. Those points earned at the free-throw line kept the Warriors from pulling away from the Nuggets while they were struggling with their offense. This paved the way for the Nuggets to mount their big second-half push and eventually get the win.
The Nuggets didn’t shoot a particularly good percentage from the line, only shooting 57.1% from the charity stripe. Those misses from the free-throw line helped the Warriors to erase the Nuggets’ advantage in the fourth quarter and kept things close. But the sheer volume of attempts meant the Nuggets could somewhat compensate for their inability to consistently make field goals. The combination of Warriors’ miscues and poor offensive performances with strong play from the Nuggets’ most important players proved to be too much for the Warriors to overcome. Thus this was a game that slipped through their hands and the Nuggets earned a nice home win in the early stages of the season.
The Warriors fly back to the Bay Area to get ready to face the Phoenix Suns on Monday night at Oracle Arena. Meanwhile, I close with this somewhat apropos song to listen to after this game.
Who is your Warrior Wonder for the Warriors’ loss in Denver?
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