The Golden State Warriors shocked - absolutely shocked - the Denver Nuggets on Tuesday night, riding a second-half run to a 116-100 win. Without Draymond Green or Kevon Looney, the Warriors were forced to start two journeymen rookies with a combined 12 games of experience (Mychal Mulder and Juan Toscano-Anderson), a non-guaranteed training camp invite (Marquese Chriss), a player who began the year on a two-way contract (Damion Lee), and Andrew Wiggins.
They won. By 16 points. Against the team holding the third seed in the Western Conference.
Let’s dig into it with nine thoughts from the stunning victory.
1. I am an idiot
I wrote the following in last night’s game thread:
In all likelihood, it will be a two-game losing streak when the team charter touches down in San Francisco. The Nuggets are good; they’re really good. And the Warriors, well . . . they’re not.
Truthfully, I was disappointed when I went back this morning and saw how neutral my stance was. I remembered it being much stronger, and my desire for some good strong self-deprecating humor was let down.
In reality, I went light on the Warriors (horrible) chances because I was afraid my endless pessimism was growing old. But I was thinking they had zip, zero, nada chance.
So thanks, Warriors. Even when you win, I lose.
2. Bender makes a final push
Let’s roll some Bender highlights:
Uhh, whoops. Wrong Bender. Let’s try that again.
Dragan Bender had a strong game, in which he showed the Warriors a little bit of everything that makes him intriguing. He set strong screens, and showed an innate ability to know where to relocate to on the floor. He had well-timed, aggressive cuts (with good finishes), mixed with popping out to space the floor.
He continued to display his very good vision and playmaking skills, which he pairs well with crisp, fast, and accurate passes.
In all, he finished with 14 points on 5-9 shooting (2-4 from deep), with 5 rebounds and 2 assists in just 23 minutes of action.
It was also the final game he was eligible to play in on his 10-day contract. His audition was strong, though Anthony Slater of The Athletic reports that the Warriors will not be re-signing him, at least not immediately. The team is reportedly interested in Bender further down the road:
From Slater’s article:
Bender, meanwhile, is currently out of time. His first 10-day deal expired on Tuesday and, I’m told, the Warriors will not immediately sign him to a second 10-day, maintaining some flexibility, though a second 10-day for Bender soon isn’t out of the question.
“I really like Dragan,” Kerr said. “I think he’s got a lot of potential. We’ll see what happens. I’d love to give him another 10 days, if possible. But we’ll figure that out as an organization going forward.”
3. Dubs bring the energy
The Warriors haven’t always played with a lot of pizzaz. Can you blame them? They’re operating from a talent deficit most nights, with banged-up bodies, and limited ramifications for losses. As a result, many of their games end up feeling like you’ve been given the security camera footage to someone’s bedroom while they’re sleepwalking.
Occasionally they wake up, make a quadruple espresso, and throw on their lucky undies. This was one of those days. All nine players who got in the game were ready to go, and as a result, it was fun to watch. Even had they lost, it would have been rather entertaining.
It was because of this energy that . . .
4. Warriors show resilience
Golden State fell down by 15 in the third quarter.
As a reminder: They were on the road, against a vastly superior opponent. And down 15. In the third quarter.
But it was no matter. They not only showed the resilience to come storming back and make things interesting, but to take it a step further and turn a close game into a quasi-blowout.
On that note, the Warriors have a pretty hilarious trend. They don’t win many games, but when they win, they really win.
The Warriors are 30th in the league in net rating, and 30th in win percentage. But in wins, they're 10th in net rating. I realize this is partially due to a complete inability to win close games, but a 14-48 team is winning their games by an average of 11.6 points. Hilarious.— Brady Klopfer (@BradyKlopferNBA) March 4, 2020
5. Jordan Poole? Jordan Poole!
Another strong, strong game for the Warriors first-round selection. After looking like he didn’t deserve to be anywhere near an NBA game for the first few months of his career, Poole has come on exceedingly strong in the last few weeks.
Jordan Poole's last 10 games: 15.8 ppg and 4.4 apg in <30 minutes, 58.7% true-shooting.— Brady Klopfer (@BradyKlopferNBA) March 4, 2020
His contribution on Tuesday? 15 points, 3 rebounds, and 6 assists in just 22 minutes, while shooting 4-6 from deep. Including this beauty, which is one of the top highlights from this season for the Warriors.
JORDAN POOLE AT THE BUZZER & THE SHIMMY— Chris Montano (@gswchris) March 4, 2020
His shot is coming around, and perhaps more importantly, he continues to display playmaking that no one realized he had.
Jordan Poole has been a different player since the all-star break. This pass shows his growth. pic.twitter.com/ifsnHEbVj2— Logan Murdock (@loganmmurdock) March 4, 2020
Poole’s been having about five such passes a game for the last few weeks, and is already showing the foundation of an elite-passing two-guard.
Two defenders crash on Jordan Poole and he still DIMES Paschall for the 3.— Chris Montano (@gswchris) March 4, 2020
I’ll be honest: His passing, as a rookie, is better than I thought it could ever be in his career. It’s truly been that good.
6. Some elevators for Mulder
The Warriors brought in Mychal Mulder on a 10-day contract for two reasons: His ability to get open for threes, and his ability to make those threes.
They’re giving him every opportunity. Not only did the Warriors give Mulder his first career start, they started running plays for him. At one point on Tuesday, they even ran the famous elevator set to spring him open for a triple.
In four games - the first four of his career - Mulder has already taken 30 triples (he’s made 11). Despite Golden State having the two greatest shooters in NBA history under contract, the team has long struggled with spacing and shooting in their bench lineups. Mulder is stating his case, in a big way.
7. Eric Paschall dunks, and then dunks some more
It’s starting to get boring, the regularity with which Eric Paschall dunks.
Wait, no it isn’t. It’s wonderful.
Paschall has shown a remarkable ability all year long to get to the rim. He’s able to get by his primary defender with amazing frequency, and is strong and explosive enough that he’s able to rise up for a dunk even with a defender riding on his hip.
Paschall going strong at Millsap pic.twitter.com/nIYRHcgft5— Warriors on NBCS (@NBCSWarriors) March 4, 2020
He’s also shown a willing and able cutting game, which results in dunks with regularity. It’s pretty great.
8. Wiggins double-double
Andrew Wiggins has already shown signs of development while with the Warriors. He’s showing defensive potential, and getting far more steals and blocks than at any time in his career. His efficiency is rising, and now he’s displaying an ability to run the offense.
On Tuesday, Wiggins had 22 points, which tied Paschall for the game high. But he supplemented it with 10 assists, marking just the second time in his career he’s hit the double-digit mark with assists.
That’s without Steph Curry or Klay Thompson to pass to. Yet.
9. Warriors step on Denver’s throat
Bad and inexperienced teams have a tendency to falter down the stretch when they’re winning. They get passive and conservative, and start focusing on not losing rather than on winning. The aggressiveness and decisiveness that got them the lead in the first place evaporates.
The Warriors have done that many times this year, but it was the opposite in Denver. They smelled blood in the fourth quarter, and went for the kill. The tightened up their defense, and took every opportunity possible to get out in transition and push the ball.
Andrew Wiggins BULLIES Jokic and snatches the ball leading to a Golden State runout pic.twitter.com/JofQMf20sj— ClutchPoints NBA (@ClutchPointsNBA) March 4, 2020
Plays like that were commonplace in the final six minutes. The Warriors didn’t let the victory (or an eventual defeat) come to them. They went out and grabbed it.