On a night where the Golden State Warriors wore their throwback Run TMC jerseys, they played like a homage to those late-80s Nellieball teams. They got crushed by an opposing center, Nikola Jokic, who had a 26-point triple double. They played very little defense, particularly in the first half, when Denver went for 70 points and feasted on the Golden State bench lineups. They rallied furiously once they started playing an undersized center, scoring ten points in less than a minute late to close to within a point. And like many of those Don Nelson teams, they fell just short in a big game.
Steph Curry had 34 points, the first time in his career he’s opened the season with back-to-back 30-point games. He hit three triples in the last four minutes of the game to keep the Warriors in it, including two from nearly the exact same spot, much to the chargin of Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.
After Curry hit a 35-footer to close the gap to 121-114, the Warriors trapped Jokic and forced a turnover. Poole hit two free throws, Bruce Brown drove for a layup, and then Klay Thompson hit a contested three to cut the lead to four points. It looked like the Warriors’ harassing defense had forced a five-second violation, but Coach Michael “Don’t Call Me Mike” Malone called a timeout. Bones Hyland split a pair of free throws, Draymond Green sunk his own pair, like a modern-day Rod Higgins. And then things got really bonkers.
Draymond and Andrew Wiggins aggressively trapped Hyland in the backcourt, and Jordan Poole intercepted his wild pass for a layup that brought the Warriors within one point. But Jokic had the presence of mind to fire a full-court pass to Brown, who was streaking to the basket for an uncontested layup of his own. We’d love to see what Jokic would do with a set of weapons like Deebo Samuel, George Kittle, and Christian McCaffrey.
The Warriors had a chance to tie with 13 seconds left, but Curry and Thompson both seemed confused that Denver didn’t foul to avoid the chance of a tying three-pointer. Caldwell-Pope almost did intentionally foul Curry, before Thompson was way off on a very long three-pointer.
After the game, Coach Steve Kerr called it “a decent look under the circumstances. Maybe not the best one, but one I’ll definitely live with. Klay Thompson shooting an open three, albeit from deep.”
You can re-live the insane final 74 seconds below.
Why were the Warriors in that situation to begin with? Because their bench got slapped around by the new-look Nuggets. Gone are old Warriors tormenters Monte Morris and Will Barton. In are new Warriors nemeses Caldwell-Pope (17 points, two steals) and Bruce Brown (20 points, five assists, two back-breaking layups). Jeff Green is back for his 15th NBA season - his first multi-year stint on a team in seven years - and he hit two huge threes to end Denver’s 40-point first quarter. And the Warriors’ old friend DeAndre Jordan, who they pursued 11 long years ago, had nine points on 4-4 shooting and five rebounds. (We still don’t know why the Warriors amnestied Charlie Bell instead of Andris Biedrins to make that offer, but the last decade has been OK for them regardless.)
Aside from Moses Moody, who played all 13 of his poor-shooting-but-overall-excellent minutes in the second half, the bench got demolished. Jordan Poole was -20, James Wiseman was -14 despite his 11 points and five rebounds, Donte DiVincenzo was -13, and both JaMychal Green and Jonathan Kuminga were -10. Moody took Kuminga’s spot in the second half, and ended up playing more than the minutes-restricted Klay Thompson.
He looked like Klay on this shot, and might have vaulted his way into Kerr’s rotation tonight.
Moody nails the triple pic.twitter.com/A0yCnsTsmb— Warriors on NBCS (@NBCSWarriors) October 22, 2022
While the Warriors gave up 40 in the first quarter, the second quarter was the real disaster, with the Warriors committing a whopping ten fouls. Three came on the offensive end, one of which sent Draymond to the bench early with three personals - he fouled out with six seconds left while stopping the clock. Green finished with 13 points and nine assists. They also turned the ball over seven times in the quarter, four in the first 3:11 when the Nuggets built a double-digit lead it looked like they’d never relinquish.
It may be an effect of the minutes restrictions on Thompson and Green - and Green’s foul trouble - but Kerr has been playing all-bench lineups, and for more on why they’re struggling, as always, read Joe Viray.
Andrew Wiggins continued his new level of play from the playoffs, with 23 points and eight rebounds, making his new contract extension already look like a bargain. All that new money hasn’t stopped him from hustling!
Draymond pick ➡️ Wiggs hustle ➡️ JP slam pic.twitter.com/UWLGVLGcU7— Warriors on NBCS (@NBCSWarriors) October 22, 2022
Klay Thompson was 4-10 from downtown for 16 points, while Curry hit 5-11 from outside. The rest of the team? A Lakers-esque 5-23. One or two more triples going down for the bench could have made a big difference.
Overall, the Denver Nuggets served notice that they were still a serious threat in the Western Conference, and they did it without Jamal Murray, who sat out for load management. The Warriors stay home for one more game, hosting former assistants Mike Brown and Leandro Barbosa, plus The Black Falcon himself, Harrison Barnes, when the Sacramento Kings come to town Sunday night.