The Golden State Warriors dropped their first game of the season on Friday, losing 128-123 to the Denver Nuggets. Hosting the Nuggets at the Chase Center, the Dubs saw firsthand why Denver is one of the early favorites to win the Western Conference.
Both teams were pushing the pace in an exciting first quarter of action. The Nuggets jumped out to an early 10-5 lead before the Dubs answered with six-straight points to take the lead.
Despite not scoring a point in the quarter, Draymond Green was a game-changer for the Warriors on Friday. Green was a force defensively, slowing down Nuggets star Nikola Jokić, and consistently pushing Golden State in transition.
With the Warriors veterans still on an early-season minutes restriction, though, head coach Steve Kerr had pulled all of his vets for the last two minutes of the quarter. The Nuggets bench took advantage and the Dubs trailed 40-34 at the end of the first quarter.
Kerr experimented with a lineup that featured James Wiseman, JaMychal Green, and Jonathan Kuminga in the frontcourt. The unit was relying on Jordan Poole to carry them offensively, but the Nuggets did a good job forcing the ball out of Poole’s hands all game long.
Green and Kevon Looney each got in foul trouble, forcing Wiseman to be the Warriors defensive anchor for even longer than originally planned. Wiseman has looked better than ever this season, but his defense still has a lot of room for improvement.
All of those factors combined in a disastrous second quarter for Golden State. The Nuggets caught fire from behind the arc in the frame, finishing the first half 8-for-14 from three. The Dubs, on the other hand, were 5-for-22 from behind the arc and managed just 18 points in the second quarter. Denver led 70-52 at the half.
The Warriors starters immediately began chipping away at their deficit in the third quarter, thanks to improved outside shooting. Green picked up his fourth foul early, but Kerr trusted him to avoid picking up his fifth, and it proved to be a worthwhile gamble. The Dubs cut the Nuggets lead to seven before they once again turned to their bench.
Kerr replaced Kuminga with Moses Moody in Golden State’s second unit, and the backups fared better in the second half. While they were unable to cut into Denver’s lead, the Warriors only trailed 106-95 with eight minutes to go in regulation when Curry and Draymond returned to the floor.
The Warriors were inching towards a comeback, but Jokić seemingly responded with an amazing play every time they got within striking distance. Then Curry showed some embers, hitting back-to-back threes to bring the Warriors within five in the final three minutes.
Bruce Brown seemed to put the game away with five unanswered points, but the Nuggets turned the ball over after Curry nailed another three with just over a minute remaining. Poole drew a foul, and made both free throws to cut the Nuggets lead back to five.
Another Brown layup followed by a triple from Klay Thompson dropped the Nuggets lead back to four, then the Warriors made it a free-throw game and all chaos broke loose. Leading by five, the Nuggets decided to foul Golden State to keep them from getting a three. Green made both free-throws to cut the lead to three.
Then, Bones Hyland, who was excellent for most of the game, fell victim to a Warriors trap and threw the ball right to Poole who laid it up to bring the Warriors within one. The Nuggets took advantage of the chaos to score a quick layup, but Golden State had the ball, trailing 126-123, with 13 seconds left.
The Warriors called a timeout to draw up a play, but were likely afraid Denver was going to foul before they could attempt a three. So Thompson rushed a three-point attempt that missed the rim entirely, officially sealing the Warriors fate.
Curry led the Warriors with 34 points, 5 rebounds, and 4 assists, but Draymond Green was a team-high +11 in plus/minus and racked up 13 points, 2 rebounds, 9 assists, 2 steals, and 2 blocks. Wiggins played more than 37 minutes, recording 23 points, 8 rebounds, and 3 steals. Wiseman (11) and Thompson (16) were the only other Warriors in double figures.
The Warriors have one day off before they try to defend home court on Sunday against the Kings, with tip off scheduled for 5:30 PM PST.
Check out our post-game Twitch stream below. Marc recapped the Warriors loss, discusses the young Dubs, critiqued Kerr’s second unit, and explains why he would pick Golden State to win a series against the Nuggets. Make sure to follow @maddelucchi on Twitch so you can join the conversation live for future streams.