In a game that seemed over, the Nuggets erased an 18-point deficit in the last seven minutes to stun the Warriors 130-127 on Nikola Jokic’s 39-foot buzzer beater Thursday night in San Francisco.
AG’s dog-bite return game
How did the Nuggets unlock their most dramatic comeback of the season, and of many seasons? Not just with the magic of Jokic, but with the offense of a player with a stitched-up shooting hand. Aaron Gordon, in his second game back from his injuries sustained from Rottweiler bites on Christmas, scored a season-high 30 points, including 13 in the final minutes after Denver trailed 121-103.
The last game he played before the dog bite was against the Warriors, and Golden State dared him to shoot open 3-pointers in that game. He attacked defenders as a driver, post player and even outside shooter Thursday night as though he were offended by that tactic. The aggression was to his team’s benefit as he fought his way to the line in crucial moments.
Vintage splash bros
The Nuggets held Steph Curry to 13-of-38 (34.2%) shooting from the field in their two clashes in Denver — largely a credit to Kentavious Caldwell-Pope — while Klay Thompson has seemingly been in decline all season. But when those two are going, the rest of the Warriors still feed off them. Even with the previous two days off, Denver’s defense wasn’t up to the challenge. And when it was, Golden State made shots anyway.
Curry started the game just 2-for-7, but the more Golden State got other Nuggets switched onto him, the more he heated up. He scored 30, Thompson added 24 and the Warriors shot 42% from 3-point range to highlight a 54.4% game from the field (it was higher before the lead collapsed late). They scored 44 points in the third quarter, one of Denver’s poorest defensive stretches of 2023-24. By the time the Nuggets had their starters back in the fourth quarter, Curry was feeling it. He drained a tough corner three in front of Michael Malone’s bench while Caldwell-Pope was up in his space providing an adequate contest as the lead stretched to its apex.
Rookie Brandin Podziemski, cut from the same cloth as the elder splash brothers, made three of four threes while also taking multiple charges at inopportune moments for Denver.
Fouls impact game to Kerr’s benefit this time
After Nikola Jokic made 18 free throws in a Christmas Day win, Warriors coach Steve Kerr went on a postgame press conference rant saying the NBA has litigated physical defense out of the game, and that players can B.S. their way to the foul line. The timing of those comments rubbed Nuggets fans the wrong way, the counterargument being Jokic’s tendency to not receive much grace from referees relative to other star players.
This time, Jokic exploded for 15 first-quarter points with the help of only one free throw attempt. He ended the night with 34 points (six free throws), nine rebounds and 10 assists. He’s shooting 39-for-44 from the field in the last four games.
But the foul factor that aided Golden State involved a guard, not Jokic. Jamal Murray responded after a quiet opening quarter by scoring 13 points in the last seven minutes of the first half. He was cooking early in the third quarter but picked up his fourth foul on a call he disagreed with. At that point, the game was tied with six minutes left in the third quarter. With Murray forced to the bench, the Warriors made their big run, even while Jokic played the entirety of the quarter.