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Nikola Jokić buries Steph Curry, Warriors to complete Nuggets comeback win


Steph Curry Denver Nuggets v Golden State Warriors Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/NBAE via Getty Images

No team plays more close games than the Golden State Warriors. In large part because no team has proven more capable of blowing fourth quarter leads than the Dubs. Facing off against the Denver Nuggets on Thursday night, the Dubs carried a 13-point lead into the fourth quarter and had outscored Denver by 20 points in a third quarter that was one of their best stretches of action on the season. Yet, they found away to flush the game away, losing on a 120-117 buzzer-beater by Nikola Jokić.

Jokić’s shot sent NBA Twitter into a tizzy and will earn him plenty of praise, but had he missed the game was headed for overtime. The Warriors had lost all momentum in the final minutes, and showed no signs of life. Jokić simply saved Dubs Nation from watching a lifeless effort in overtime.

The Warriors were outcoached in the fourth quarter. Nuggets head coach Michael Malone shifted Jokić onto Chris Paul, allowing him to play free safety on defense. Curry tried isolating on Aaron Gordon, but the All-Star wing’s length and athleticism was stifling. The Dubs tried having Paul initiate some offense for Klay Thompson, but that was unable to open things up.

Andrew Wiggins was on the floor as well, getting the nod over Jonathan Kuminga in the closing minutes for no clear reason. Kuminga had scored 16 points in 19 minutes of action, had 4 rebounds, 4 assists, and had a +6 plus/minus. Wiggins had been solid off the bench, but had far from flashed taking over the game. Despite Kuminga in the starting lineup and Wiggins benched, Warriors head coach Steve Kerr continues to give his veterans the edge in tight games.

It was clearly the wrong decision on Thursday.

Veterans, particularly those on the Warriors with championship accolades, are supposed to have the edge in closing games. They are supposed to have that extra instinct and push to get across the finish line. But Golden State has been blowing leads all season. Often with older players on the court at the expense of youth. There was perhaps an added insult to injury that Malone stuck with young Peyton Watson to close the game.

Rookies Brandin Podziemski and Trayce Jackson-Davis did receive some opportunities in the fourth quarter, although Jackson-Davis sat for the first 8.5 minutes, but with the referees liberally calling fouls, Kuminga’s physical driving ability sure seemed like a potential antidote to the Warriors struggles offensively and rebounding.

Curry finished with 30 points on 11-for-23 shooting with 4 rebounds, 6 assists, and 2 turnovers, one of which came on the penultimate possession and setup Jokić for his game-winning shot. Despite fading late, Thompson had another good overall performance as well, scoring 25 points on 18 shots.

Podziemski and Dario Šarić were solid offensive sparks off the bench, particularly in the third quarter. They each scored 13 points and Šarić added 7 rebounds and 6 assists in 23 minutes.

Jokić, of course, led the way for Denver with 34 points, 9 rebounds, and 10 assists. However, Gordon was a surprising second-fiddle, recording 30 points and 9 rebounds alongside his impressive defensive effort. Jamal Murray added 25 as well.

The Dubs will now face the Detroit Pistons tomorrow night at Chase Center. They will look to avoid reaching a new low in fan morale.

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