The Golden State Warriors defeated the Denver Nuggets 118-113 on Thursday. Now with a commanding 3-0 series lead, the Dubs are just one win away from eliminating the Nuggets and advancing to the Western Conference Semifinals.
As in the previous two games, neither team built a significant lead in the first quarter and a half, oscillating between single-digit leads. However, the Warriors had another fantastic stretch to end the first half, closing the second quarter on a 24-14 run, to put Golden State ahead 69-59 at halftime.
While the third quarter is where things have tended to fall apart for the Nuggets in this series, they performed far better in their first home game of the postseason. The Nuggets got off to a 10-2 start to the second half, and for the first time in the series, punished the Warriors for letting Stephen Curry come off the bench.
Curry’s return slowed Denver’s run, but it did not bring things back into the Warriors’ favor. Everything seemed to be falling apart for the Dubs. Draymond Green landed awkwardly on his ankle, remaining on the ground for some time during a timeout. Then after Green remained in the game, Jordan Poole called to be removed from the game minutes later, dealing with clear discomfort in his left elbow.
Yet, while the Nuggets had their best quarter of the series, the Dubs still had enough short spurts to prevent things from getting out of hand. Poole returned to the court in the final minute of the third and delivered an immediate offensive jolt. Heading into the fourth quarter, the Warriors trailed just 89-87.
Nuggets star Nikola Jokić rested (along with Curry) to start the fourth quarter, and Golden State’s second-unit retook a small lead, but things were far from over. Jokić recorded another impressive statline on Thursday, recording 3 points, 18 rebounds, 5 assists, and 3 steals. While his teammates disappeared in Games 1 and 2 of the series, though, Jokić got far more support.
Aaron Gordon played his best game of the series, adding 18 points, 12 rebounds, and 4 assists on 7-for-13 shooting from the field. He used his length and athleticism well defensively to take advantage of a Warriors offense that looked out of sorts at times, particularly after Green and Poole’s injuries in the third quarter. Denver as a team shot 44.0% from three over the course of the game, punishing the Warriors whenever they double-teamed Jokić.
The trio of Curry, Poole, and Klay Thompson once again carried Golden State’s offense, each scoring at least 26 points and combining to shoot 28-for-48 from the field (12-for-27 from three). Gary Payton II made some big threes during Golden State’s second-quarter run, finishing with 11 points, but no other Warriors reached double-digits.
Green struggled more than he had earlier in the series, frustrated by some foul calls that went against him. He was still by far the Warriors' best defender against Jokić and had 6 points, 5 rebounds, and 10 assists, but also recorded four turnovers and five fouls. The other Warriors’ starters (Kevon Looney and Andrew Wiggins) each played their worst game of the series.
Both teams were in the penalty roughly halfway through the fourth quarter, and the referees’ sensitive whistle made things into a bit of a free-throw shooting contest, one the Nuggets benefited from. Denver was 12-for-12 from the free-throw line in the fourth quarter and was 22-for-27 over the course of the game. The Warriors were just 18-for-28 for the line.
Tied at 109 with 3:30 remaining in regulation, Jokić pump-faked past Green, who was playing with five fouls and finished a layup at the rim to give the Nuggets the lead. Then, Wiggins had his best stretch of the game. He knocked down an open three to put the Warriors back ahead, forced Jokić to miss a hook defensively, and then set Poole up for a layup after getting an offensive rebound off a Curry miss.
Leading 114-111 in the final minute, Curry drove past Jokić and finished a layup to put the Warriors ahead by five. Jokić went right at Green on the other end, but Green got a steal, and the Nuggets were forced to foul.
Golden State has struggled late in close games throughout the regular season. In a game that meant much more to the Nuggets on their home floor, though, the Warriors bounced back from several hiccups and pulled out the victory. Now in complete control of the series, the Dubs will try to finish things off on Sunday, April 24th at 12:30 PM Pacific Standard Time.
Join our Warriors postgame show over on Twitch hosted by Marc Delucchi: