Well, that was fun.

The Denver Nuggets survived a late Stephen Curry three-pointer and some late miscues by Nikola Jokic to defeat the Golden State Warriors 108-105. The Warriors had multiple chances at the end of the game to tie or take the lead, but the Nuggets played strong defense, forced tough shots, and made enough plays at the end to get by.

Denver improves to 8-1 overall and 6-0 at home, the best records in the NBA respectively.

Nikola Jokić shined with 35 points, 13 rebounds, and five assists, as well as three steals and a block. The Serbian center shot just 1-of-8 from three-point range, had a critical turnover, and missed two late free throws, but when Jokić got to the front of the rim, he was still automatic. The Warriors had no answer for him when he got to his spots, and Jokić created enough advantages for himself and others late in the game to survive.

Reggie Jackson also made several important plays, finishing the game with 20 points, six assists, and zero turnovers, hitting two key layups on feeds from Jokić in the closing minutes.

“I think Reggie’s been fantastic for us,” Michael Malone shared postgame. “He plays with the starters. He plays with the second unit…he’s able to do both. He’s a scorer. He’s been a scorer his whole career, but most importantly, six assists and zero turnovers. That’s what you want from your starting point guard.”

Here are my takeaways from the Nuggets matchup with the Warriors on Wednesday night to close a four-game homestand:

Down to the wire

For the first time in what feels like a while, the Denver Nuggets played a game featuring clutch time. After struggling to score for much of the first three quarters, the Nuggets were down and needed a jolt of energy heading into the fourth quarter. Rather than go with the same bench unit that played in the second quarter, the Nuggets brought in veteran Justin Holiday as well as three starters (Reggie Jackson, Michael Porter Jr., and Aaron Gordon) to stabilize the bench units. The Nuggets went on a bit of a run, kicked off by two blocks by Porter, a buzzer beating jumper by Porter, and a three-pointer by Holiday.

Jokić eventually returned with the Nuggets nursing a lead, and Denver never fully relinquished it. The Warriors kept it very close throughout, putting pressure on the Nuggets to execute defensively, and they did just that.

“We tried some different things tonight,” Michael Malone shared postgame. “There were some growing pains, but overall, I think our guys had pretty good game plan discipline.”

The Nuggets late in the game decided to use Jokić to guard Chris Paul, a matchup that went in Denver’s favor multiple times. Jokić stayed out of the pick and roll, and though he was forced to guard on an island at times, the Nuggets sent help and did a solid job guarding the Warriors small ball units.

Jokić was doing a great job directing traffic offensively in the clutch until the final two possessions, whipping a blind pass directly to Steph Curry trying to thread the needle. Curry hit the ensuing three to cut the Nuggets lead to two points. Then, Jokić was fouled and missed both free throws, allowing Curry an opportunity to score on the other end.

Curry missed the floater/layup, and the Nuggets ended up winning anyway.

Veterans vs Rookies

“I didn’t think our young players were ready to play tonight,” declared Malone.

The Nuggets at one point ran out a bench unit featuring Collin Gillespie (24 years old), Julian Strawther (21), Christian Braun (22), Peyton Watson (21), and Zeke Nnaji (22). It’s a tough place to be to go up against the veteran Golden State Warriors that feature Chris Paul leading their bench unit, but the Nuggets still showed their age in more ways than one. There was very little plan of attack from the second unit, and too many possessions devolved into players doing something they just weren’t ready to do.

So, Malone pivoted, bringing in the aforementioned Holiday and played the starters heavy minutes. It’s not a permanent solution, but it got the Nuggets through tonight.

“Justin [Holiday], what I love about him, he went out there and defended, did his job. He missed a wide open three, and what you love about him is the very next possession, sprints to the corner no hesitation, knocks down a big three.”

Credit to Holiday for staying ready, a true veteran who understood what he had to do in the moment and was ready to fulfill the task at hand. The Nuggets could use that, even if it means not playing a young guy here or there.

“I’m not the Salvation Army. I’m not just going to give minutes. You have to continue to earn your minutes.”

Next Up

The Nuggets will have THREE days off on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday before traveling to face the Houston Rockets on Sunday. There will be practices, but there will also be plenty of rest to come for a Nuggets team that desperately needs it.

Final Rotations