Up eight with six minutes to play, it was the Warriors game to lose Thursday night against the Nuggets.
And that’s exactly what they did.
An Eric Paschall 3 with 15 seconds left in regulation brought the team back from the brink and gave them a two-point lead. But it just prolonged the inevitable as the Warriors fell in overtime, 134-131.
Some missed free throws by Mason Plumlee gave the Warriors a slight chance in overtime, but it was not to be.
The Nuggets outscored Golden State 40-28 in the fourth to erase a lead the Warriors had enjoyed all game.
Like a parent, Steve Kerr wasn’t mad about the team’s performance down the stretch, just disappointed:
“I thought our guys played great tonight, they played really well together with 36 assists, we moved the ball. When Denver came out in the second half with multiple runs, we kept fighting back just couldn’t quite get over the hump.”
Bucking their usual trend of digging themselves a deep hole to start the game, Golden State actually came out striping the ball from deep, shooting 7-of-12 from 3 in the first.
It’s a welcomed sight for a team that has struggled finding its shooting touch from the outside without Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry, ranking fifth-worst in the league.
But it also should be tempered with the fact that the Nuggets were on the back end of a back-to-back, and missing three-fifths of their starting five with Gary Harris, Jamal Murray and Paul Milsap all out with injuries.
Without their stars, the Warriors’ shooting all falls on D’Angelo Russell. And he has carried that load admirably of late. Outside of his 0-for-6 game against the Mavericks, he was 14-of-23 entering Thursday.
He continued to build on that with four 3’s in the first half alone against the Nuggets. He finished with six 3’s. The only problem was, that was all he made as he went 0-for-6 on 2’s.
The Warriors are also starting to get production from Jordan Poole. After a disastrous start to the season, Poole is showing signs of breaking out of his year-long slump.
He has broken double-digit scoring in the last three games with 10 more Thursday. No, three games does not make him an impact player, but any kind of improvement is noteworthy after he shot 10 percent from the field for the entire month of December.
Eric Paschall said it’s great to see his rookie teammate finally string some good outings together:
“I feel like that’s one thing that he’s been doing a great job of he’s just playing free. As a rookie you’re going to make mistakes, mistakes are going to happen so that’s one thing that I feel like he’s done a great job, just not really getting down not. I mean, no one’s perfect.”
One guy who didn’t shoot the ball great was Draymond Green, who was just 2-of-8. And while he’s shot just 24 percent over his last six games, the one thing you can count on is what he brings defensively, especially when he’s on National TV.
So, it’s not a shocker that Nikola Jokic had himself an awful game opposite Green. Jokic would have been invisible on the court if it weren’t for his very obvious turnovers, of which he had eight.
Green made his life miserable, constantly bodying him, giving him no room on drives. It even made Jokic erupt for a technical after yelling at the refs in the first half.
But Green was the only one on the roster to play above average defense. Unlike most of Golden State’s other collapses, this one did not fall on an inability to score, as seven different Warriors got into double-digits, it was the defense that led to their demise.
Glenn Robinson III said that while all losses hurt, this one felt different:
“I think I mean, they all feel the same, a loss is a loss. But you know, the way we started, we all expected to win this game. [But] you got to hit guys when they’re down, you know and make them give up, make them quit.”
But they didn’t make them quit, instead their bench sparked their run. Malik Beasley and Michael Porter Jr. were unstoppable in the half court sets, and any miss they did throw up was cleaned up by Plumlee. In the end, all the work the Warriors did early just wasn’t enough.
The Orlando Magic come to town Saturday before the Warriors take the road for just one game up to Portland Monday.
Jacob Evans is out indefinitely after taking an elbow to the face last game. He sustained a broken nose and a concussion, so he’ll have to pass the leagues concussion protocol before he can get back on the court. … Another Warrior has a broken nose as Marqueese Chriss, fresh off his two-way contract signing, will play with a mask after breaking his nose Jan. 2.