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Warriors dig first-half hole, comeback falls short in Nuggets loss

If Draymond Green needed any evidence to support being an All-Star and the defensive player of the year this season, just send the entire game film from Tuesday’s 89-86 loss to the Denver Nuggets.

While the score ended close, Denver (17-16) was up by as much as 24 in the first half as they put up 60 easy points on a Warriors defense that was lost without its leader.

It was obvious the Warriors (27-7) would suffer without their most important player on the defensive side of the ball, but their offense was just as lost without Green.

This story has been updated with quotes and post-game material from the Warriors locker room at Chase Center.

Juan Toscano-Anderson took the blame for not replicating the energy Green usually brings:

Somebody’s gotta bring the energy. I take the blame for that. I started in Draymond’s place, so I’ll be the first to take the blame … Next game I’ll try to be better.”

Golden State committed 17 turnovers, but it felt like 30 with the frequency you saw Warriors players walk back down the court after empty possessions.

The sad part is that all of those turnovers created some semblance of movement, because whenever the Warriors didn’t turn the ball over, their offense was incredibly stagnant.

And yet they were able to claw their way back into the game on the back of their defense, which woke up at the half.

They held the Nuggets to 29 points total in the entire second half and gave themselves a chance to steal this game.

Steve Kerr said no one player can replace everything Green does for the team:

It’s not an individual thing. You don’t replace a guy like Draymond with one player, you replace him with a collective energy like we did the second half. To hold a team to 29 points in a half without Draymond shows how hard our guys played.”

But it was the turnovers and missed free throws that ultimately doomed them. As a team they shot 16-of-31 from the charity stripe, with Juan Toscano-Anderson and Jonathan Kuminga combining for a disastrous 4-of-16 from the line.

It didn’t seem like it would matter when the Nuggets were putting it on the Warriors, but once the game got closer and closer, those missed free throws loomed large.

Kerr said that the vibe of the game was off even before all the missed free throws:

It felt like we were losing the game before the free throws went bad. I just didn’t feel like our energy was right… We were turning it over quite a bit, we weren’t getting good shots. The free throws came a little bit later, I thought the tone was already set.”

It was contagious too, as even Stephen Curry missed a free throw in the fourth quarter.

That was one of the few shots Curry did miss in the fourth after he couldn’t buy a basket in the first half.

He awoke from his first half slumber, he had just eight points entering the fourth but willed himself to 15 in the final frame to finish with 23.

Curry was blanketed by multiple defenders all night. Every screen brought two players and without Green to improvise Curry into open shots, it was all on Curry to get open — and he just wasn’t able to.

And with no Jordan Poole, there was no alternate shot creator on the floor.

Andrew Wiggins tried to be that secondary scorer, putting up 21, but he’s at his best when he’s attacking off the catch.

It was Wiggins first game back in 11 days after clearing health and safety protocols and no rust was apparent.

They’re going to need him and most likely Poole, who should be back Thursday to pick up any of the slack as Green will probably be out for the next couple contests as they try to weather this tough stretch.

Up Next

The worst part of Tuesday’s dismantling? The Warriors visit the Nuggets to play them again Thursday. The good part is that it’s tough to imagine them playing any worse than they did Tuesday.

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